The Trinity College Democrats welcomed U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Igor Volsky, the founder and executive director of Guns Down America, to a Gun Violence Prevention Forum held on Friday, October 4, in the McCook Auditorium.

Igor Volsky (left), the founder and executive director of Guns Down America, with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) at the Gun Violence Prevention Forum at Trinity College. Photo by Nick Caito.

Murphy, who is publishing a book in January 2020 on the history of violence in the United States called The Violence Inside Us, discussed the role he has played in the gun reform movement and answered questions on the issue of gun violence in America today. “We need to realize that gun violence is on the radar of politicians and the Democrats are doing everything in their power to implement strict background checks,” said Murphy, when asked what actions politicians in Washington, D.C., plan to take to abate public shootings.

Volsky, in his opening address to the audience in which he emphasized the difference between action and surface-level empathy exercised by politicians, said, “Lawmakers are quick to send thoughts and prayers after a shooting, but these lawmakers are the ones taking money from the NRA.” Volsky’s tweets highlighting the amount of money politicians received from the National Rifle Association became viral in 2016 and served as a catalyst for his larger gun reform movement. Guns Down America, which aims to move the country toward a future with fewer guns, focuses on driving corporate-based campaigns to encourage corporations, such as Walmart, to end sales of assault weapons and advocate for gun reform.

Murphy shared why he sees gun violence as a deeply personal issue. “It is unfortunate that a new generation of parents, such as myself, see active shooter drills in our children’s schools and realize this threat is very real,” said Murphy. He and Volsky underlined the importance of including corporations in this conversation. “People should not take moral cues from corporations, but they do, and that is why we need to encourage corporations to take effective action that will, in turn, affect the opinions of consumers,” Murphy added.

Trinna Larsen ’20, the president of Trinity’s Student Government Association, asks a question during the forum.

After Volsky and Murphy scrutinized the political reactions to gun violence in America, the panelists opened the floor to questions. Trinna Larsen ’20, the president of Trinity’s Student Government Association, asked the speakers what actions colleges can take to supplement this movement. Murphy said that students should demand that institutions stop taking money from organizations that oppose gun reform. “The next wave of advocacy has to be a conscientious investment,” said Murphy.

The audience was curious to know what action can be taken against gun violence if Republicans continue to hold to majority in the Senate after the 2020 elections. Murphy emphasized that his goal is to convince Republicans to support gun reform rather than only criticize their inactions. “We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said. “We need to continue to build the movement and we can only do that if everyone believes in it.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Thomas X. Lefebvre expressed appreciation for both speakers’ input on this debate. “Volsky’s creative campaign tactics bring a breath of fresh air and optimism to the gun control conversation which, for far too long, has seemed hopeless in this country,” Lefebvre said. “It was also a rare opportunity for students to listen and exchange with Senator Murphy, one of the loudest voices nationally on the topic.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) with members of the Trinity College Democrats.

The vice president of the Trinity College Democrats, Alex Dahlem ’20, found the talk to be very informative and said, “Igor and Senator Murphy gave us a lot of great advice on how we, as college students, can start to make a difference when it comes to gun violence prevention.”

Hunter Savery ’20, vice president of finance for the Student Government Association, also emphasized the inspirational aspect of the discussion. “Gun violence is an issue that receives far too little attention in America. Senator Murphy and Igor gave remarkably thoughtful answers and provided tangible examples of activism for college students,” said Savery.

Murphy and Volsky were available to continue the conversation after the forum.