Blumenthal, Murphy, DeLauro rally gun control advocates in New Haven
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, at lectern, Sen. Chris Murphy, third from right, and U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLaurofar right, are seen with others during a press conference Friday in front of the New Haven Police Department. Standing second from right is New Haven police Lt. Herbert Johnson. Photo: Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media / New Haven Register
A crowd of approximately 150 people gathered outside the New Haven Police Department Friday as U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, addressed the issue of gun violence and proposed legislation in wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Against a backdrop of colorful picket signs, the congressional delegates and others signed their names and condolences on a poster from the Newtown Action Alliance that will be sent to Las Vegas in a show of support.
One of those people was Nicole Hockley of Newtown, whose 6-year-old son Dylan died in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. She said when she first heard the news of the Las Vegas shootings it took her a very long time to get out of bed. “At that point there were only about 20 reported dead, and I just stayed in bed for about an hour and a half, just watching the news reports and learning more and crying,” she said.
Fifty-nine people were killed in the Las Vegas shootings, with more than 500 left wounded.
While she feels “immense frustration and anger,” comparing herself to a “volcano about to erupt” on weeks like this, Hockley said she directs that energy into making sure people know there are actions they can take to prevent these things from happening.
“We will not accept Las Vegas or any mass shooting as normal, nor will we accept that gun violence cannot be stopped. We can do something. Inaction is unacceptable,” said Blumenthal.
Mark Barden of Newtown, who lost his 7-year-old son Daniel in the Sandy Hook shootings, said he has no words to describe what happened in Las Vegas, only his actions to make sure something like that never happens again. However, he wishes change would come sooner.
After the Newtown massacre, New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell believed there would be significant gun legislation across the board, but five years later, nothing has really changed.
“The reality is that every day in this country lives are lost to unnecessary gun violence. This city, the city of New Haven, is no stranger to that,” he said. “We have been fighting and advocating for realistic gun laws that will help us in the law enforcement industry to ensure that each and everyone of our citizens are safe.
“No one is asking for any impediments on someone’s constitutional rights,” he said. “What we’re asking for is commonsense legislation, so that situations like what happened in Las Vegas or what happened in this state up at Sandy Hook can never happen again.”
Connecticut has the second-strongest gun laws in the nation, and the fifth-lowest rate of gun deaths. “The data tells you only one thing: If you keep dangerous people from getting their hands on weapons and if you keep dangerous weapons out of the hands (of) civilians, you will save lives, less people will die,” Murphy said.
Marty Isaac of Trumbell, board president of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said, “there’s a long way to go.”
“This is a going to be a crack; this is going to be the first time we’re going to get some legislation through in years and years and years,” Isaac said. “It’s hardly done, but we just need to begin to change.”
DeLauro, D-3, said even though the American people continue to demand action and beg “us to stop the killing,” the congressional delegates haven’t been able to vote on gun violence legislation. She said offering prayers and moments of silence are no longer enough, believing, “we would win overwhelmingly if these issues were brought forward.”
“What more information do we need?” she asked. “When we saw Sandy Hook, we said, ‘never again.’ Columbine, we said, ‘never again.’ Aurora, we said, ‘never again.’ San Bernardino, ‘never again.’ Orlando, ‘never again.’ Las Vegas. How can we say, ‘never again,’ when it continues to happen over and over and over again?”
Murphy said they have to tried every technique in their arsenal, from standing on the Senate floor for 15 hours to a 24-hour sit-in the House of Representatives. Ultimately, he believes no matter how many good ideas they come up with, things won’t change in Washington, D.C., until the people in office are afraid they are going to lose an election if they continue to vote against the wishes of their constituents.
The proposed legislation includes a ban on bump stocks, an attachment that enables a semi-automatic rifle to fire more quickly, which Stephen Paddock, the gunman in the Las Vegas shootings, used to modify his rifles.
“People in Las Vegas might well be alive today if bump stocks were illegal and access were barred because the shooter there was able mow down so many people with a machine-gun-like weapon that he converted ... with the use of bump stock,” Blumenthal said.
He said the ban, not the regulation, of bump stocks is the least they can do, but it is still far from the most that they must do. Legislation was introduced Thursday that would repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a law which protects firearm manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products.
Other measures that should be taken, according to Blumenthal, include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; a background check; and elimination of a provision that allows anybody, even felons, to obtain a weapon if a background check is not completed within 72 hours. Dylann Roof, who killed multiple parishioners in a church in South Carolina, obtained his weapon in such a fashion.
“‘No check, no gun,’ ought to be a principal applied to all sales and background checks should be applied to every sale,” Blumenthal said. “We are moving forward with a full agenda. The idea that we can’t do anything about gun violence because there are evil people or folks with mental illness is absolutely false. The idea that we must be inert or inactive simply because some deaths will continue. We can’t perhaps eliminate all deaths but every life we save ... is a gift, and it is our obligation to work toward this goal.”
Despite the perceived opposition from staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, Blumenthal described a person’s right to bear arms as the “law of the land,” reiterating that gun owners do have rights and the proposed legislation is not trying to take away those rights.
Murphy said people sometimes make the assumption that proponents of the Second Amendment are on the other side of the argument. In fact, he believes gun violence is a unique issue in which gun owners and non-gun owners are on the same team.
“I think in terms to enact change, we need to engage a lot more people,” Hockley said. “That’s something we absolutely need to do because this is about saving lives and preventing death. This is not about whether or not you can own a gun. So we need to get past that to reframe the debate to save lives.”
Murphy said he has yet to meet a single gun owner in the state who thinks automatic weapons should be legalized, explaining that gun owners often are the most vocal supporters of the changes since they believe in responsible gun ownership, are law-abiding citizens and want weapons that help them hunt, not weapons that help them kill people.
According to Murphy, the problem is the gun industry . He said the gun industry doesn’t “want any of these restrictions put on weapons sales because they make the money off the really dangerous weapons.”
“That’s why this visual here, with hundreds of people gathered, demanding change, which is being replicated in states all across this country this weekend, is ultimately going to make the difference,” he said. “It is going to be the growing anti-gun violence movement, represented here today by all of these groups, growing stronger by the minute that are going to force Congress to act and are ultimately going to save people’s lives,” he said.