Democratic US Senator Chris Murphy implored his colleagues to act to combat gun violence hours after a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at a primary school in Texas.

Mr Murphy, who before his election to the Senate represented the Connecticut congressional district where a gunman killed 26 young children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, urged his colleagues to craft legislation to restrict the proliferation of guns.

He began his speech by asking "what are we doing?" and said that this latest school shooting occurred just days after a teenager walked into a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, to "gun down African American patrons".

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Mr Murphy told his colleagues that "we have another Sandy Hook on our hands".

"Our kids are living in fear every time they step foot in a class room because they think they're going to be next," he said, as he implored Republican lawmakers to take action over gun control.

"I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees to beg my colleagues: find a path forward here," he said.

"Why do you spend all this time running for the US Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, or putting yourself in a position of authority if your answer is that, as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing.

"What are you doing, why are you here? If not to solve a problem as existential as this," he added.

He said that what happened was not inevitable, and these children were not "unlucky" and that in no other country do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.

"I just don't understand why people here think we're powerless," Mr Murphy told reporters after his speech.

"There's just not a coincidence that we're the high-income-world's deadliest nation and we have the loosest gun laws. You know, guns flow in this country like water. And that's why we have mass shooting after mass shooting."

Previous efforts to pass new federal restrictions on guns failed following the Sandy Hook shooting, a 2017 attack on Republican members of Congress practicing baseball, and the attack just ten days ago in Buffalo.

Many Republican lawmakers, who typically oppose new restrictions on gun ownership, following past attacks have argued that the United States needs to do more to end mental illness.

"Spare me the bulls**t about mental illness," Mr Murphy said, anticipating that response to the shooting in Texas.

"We don't have any more mental illness than any other country in the world. You cannot explain this through a prism of mental illness because we're not an outlier on mental illness. ... We're an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their arms on firearms. That's what makes America different."

The US Supreme Court in the coming weeks is expected to rule on a case that could greatly expand the right to carry concealed handguns, in a challenge to a New York state law that opponents say violates the US Constitution's Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Mr Murphy said he would be happy to work on a bipartisan solution, saying a bill needed to "show progress" and not necessarily be a perfect legislative fix.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis said lawmakers needed to take a look at "reasonable measures" to curtail threats to communities.

"I'm happy to look at anything as long as it doesn't deny anybody rights for law-abiding citizens," he told reporters.

Additional reporting Reuters