Sen. Murphy proposes linking federal funding for police to enforcement of existing gun laws

After a pair of mass shootings roiled America’s long holiday weekend, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn., this week suggested that lawmakers consider withholding federal funds from police agencies that refuse to enforce laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of potential killers. 

Murphy, one of the Senate’s most vocal proponents for gun control efforts, spoke about the need to address sporadic enforcement of state and federal gun laws during an appearance on CNN’s Face the Nation, in which he said that the “majority” of counties are effectively sanctuaries for a right-wing interpretation of the Second Amendment.

“They have decided that they are going to essentially refuse to implement laws that are on the books,” Murphy said. “That is a growing problem in this country and I think we’re going to have to have a conversation about that in the United States Senate. Do we want to continue to supply funding to law enforcement in counties that refuse to implement state and federal gun laws?”

According to the Associated Press, there are nearly 2,000 counties nationwide that have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” with the number growing in recent years.

One of the so-called sanctuaries, Colorado’s El Paso County, was the location of a massacre at a LGBTQ nightclub earlier this month that left five people dead. Three years ago, the county passed a resolution declaring its opposition to the state’s red flag law, according to the AP, which reported that police in the county have a sparse track record of using the law to temporarily confiscate weapons from people deemed a danger to themselves or others. 

Murphy did not say what criteria would be used to determine whether local law enforcement agencies are willfully ignoring gun laws, and he has not filed any legislation proposing to tie federal funding to the enforcement of those laws. 

The senator’s comments quickly drew the attention of conservative media outlets and opponents of gun control, with the Connecticut Republican Party tweeting that Murphy is a “disgrace” and likening his proposal to calls to defund the police.

Murphy’s office said this week that the Senator was unavailable to expand upon his comments. 

In response to the criticism he has received from Republicans, a spokesperson for Murphy said the senator was not advocating for a cut to police funding, but rather wanted to ensure that federal grants and other aid be limited to agencies that enforce state and federal gun control laws. 

In the past, Republicans have similarly proposed withholding federal funding from “Sanctuary Cities” that do not enforce federal immigration laws. Federal policy already ties a portion of the highway funding that states may receive to having laws that set the drinking age at 21 and prohibiting open containers — the latter of which costs Connecticut millions of dollars every year

During his appearance on CNN, Murphy also conceded that the Senate likely lacks the 60 votes necessary to pass legislation restoring the national ban on assault weapons, despite President Joe Biden’s calls for lawmakers to approve the legislation.  

Following the massacre at an Uvalde, Texas elementary school in May that led to comparisons with Sandy Hook, Murphy helped shepherd a bi-partisan gun control bill through Congress that closed certain loopholes on the federal background check system and dedicated more than $750 million to states that have enacted red flag laws. 

Connecticut enacted the nation’s first Red Flag Law in 1999. The state does not have county governments, and no municipalities are known to have declared themselves “sanctuaries” from that or other state or federal gun laws, according to State Police.