Dan Muroff: 'Guns in the street are easier to find than healthy produce'
The above headline doesn’t quite sum up the reason Dan Muroff is running for Congress. But it comes close.
Muroff, 48, was the first to throw his hat into this now-crowded Democratic primary. (Mark your calanders: election day is coming up fast.) He's looking to unseat veteran U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah — who faces a string of federal corruption charges and a dwindling campaign coffer — and gun violence prevention is his big campaign issue.
A well-known attorney and Democratic ward leader in Mount Airy, Muroff has a long history of advocating for smarter gun control. He calls it a “public health crisis,” the effects of which can be felt in the second congressional district that includes parts of North Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
You've mentioned that you want to deter illegal drug use. Do you think you can take on gun violence prevention at the same time?
Maybe the best way to characterize it is that the tools of self-destruction are easily accessible to young people. And young people make dumb decisions. Lord knows I did...Guns in the street are easier to find than healthy produce. The same thing with illegal drugs. They unravel the fabric of not just an individual’s future, but with it their family’s future.
But let me just say that my first intention is to focus on gun violence prevention. The number of deaths, the number of families that are devastated. When I say remediable, I don’t been fixable. But you can remedy in part, and mitigate in part, the gun violence in cities and elsewhere by passing reasonable legislation. I’m not talking about talking about taking away second amendment rights, but responsible ownership and responsible sales. It doesn’t even register to me how the other side argues against it as some slippery slope to taking away all guns. To me that’s just a rouse. We can’t allow those who see this as a single issue stand in the way of what reasonable people know what needs to be done.
How would you achieve bipartisan support on gun control legislation?
First of all, I think there is bipartisan support. We have 90-plus percent of Americans who support criminal background checks. Even amongst [National Rifle Association] members it’s about 70 percent. So the answer to that is not whether there is bipartisan support amongst the electorate … it’s whether or not members of Congress will bend to isolated interests. If we keep the profile up on this issue, we can make change, and that’s been proven time again in history. It feels a little intractable right now — I get that. But you can’t give in.
So give me three examples of common sense gun reform that you’d advocate for.
People should be responsible to report their lost or stolen guns...I think that’s actually something we could implement on the national level...Again, it’s about responsible gun ownership.
In Pennsylvania, we do have criminal background checks, but not for long-guns in private sales, which is something that we should have nationally. In states that don’t have these background checks, [some people] can go to those states and purchase illegally, whereas they otherwise not be permitted because they have a record.
I also think maybe we should limit the size of these magazines. The number of people who are killed in mass shooting incidents. A lot of the times it’s the time the shooter has to reload when they can take him down.
It’s not sporting to use a semi-automatic weapon to go hunting, or frankly, self-defense.
Incumbent Congressman Chaka Fattah has an ‘F’ rating from the NRA. He has voted consistently down the line in support of gun control issues that have come across in Congress. What would you say you could add to that?
Let me just say I don’t think anyone running for this seat is going to have widely varying positions on policy. This isn’t a general election where people have widely divergent views. So the question is one of emphasis.
Leadership on an issue speaks to distinction between sponsoring and co-sponsoring legislation. To me, [gun control] is a priority issue. I consider it a deeply troubling fundamental problem for our society. 30,000 a year shot? It’s a public health crisis. It demands that everybody.
How to you debate the rhetoric that comes from the other side of the aisle?
It’s easy rhetoric, but empirically it’s not supported. In states where they have more restricted gun measures, the incidents are lower.
We are a nation with a unique problem. I am not one who subscribes to the notion that we just have to so ‘do something’ about it. Because that leads to restrictions that just upset people. And I get that.
Once in a while you hear the other side say “well, everybody drives a car and cars are dangerous.” Yeah, well, nothing has improved its safety over the last ten decades more than automobiles. Airplanes. Escalators. Installation of electric wiring. I can go down the list. But when it comes to a gun? It doesn’t matter.
If there’s an approach that we want to try to make it better and safer, we can’t even fund the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] to research it.
The second congressional district is an urban-suburban district. Do you think this issue has resonance with voters in Montgomery County?
Whether it does or doesn’t, it doesn’t change my position or commitment to the cause. But to answer your question, I do believe that people across this district care about it deeply. I do believe people in Lower Merion-Narberth care about it a lot, certainly so do people where I live in Mount Airy. Gun violence prevention crosses all socioeconomic [boundaries].
What’s your path to victory in this race?
This is the year of different. And I say this incredibly respectfully, I think that nearly 40 years of service for any legislative body is laudable. It’s great. But people are looking for people with something different. I have varied experience. I have worked in Washington … on behalf of not-for-profits … in Philadelphia … on a variety of boards where I’ve advocated for a variety of causes that people care deeply about in this district.