Every time she hears about a shooting in this country, Katie Morosky said, she is traumatized.
“It comes back every time,” the Newtown resident said Friday afternoon. “Every time you hear about another shooting, everything that happened here comes right back.”
Ms Morosky was one of about 18 people who gathered outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) headquarters late Friday afternoon. Since 12/14, the corner of Mile Hill Road near Queen Street has been a popular location for those who are on either side of the gun control debate. While groups, or sometimes just one or two people, make regular appearances at the location, Friday’s display was in response to shootings one week earlier in southwestern California.
A shooter went on a rampage the evening of Friday, May 23, near the University of California at Santa Barbara that left seven people dead, including the attacker, and 13 others wounded, authorities told the Associated Press last weekend. The shooter, identified as Elliot Rodger, 22, a UCSB student, took his own life after his murderous rampage.
“We’re here to remember the students who were killed last week in California,” said Ms Morosky. The six people killed a week ago were all students of UCSB.
The killings have reignited the debate over mental health issues and gun control. Authorities are still trying to figure out the shooter's motive, but after reading a manifesto found after the shootings, they believe mental illness played a large part.
Meanwhile, Richard Martinez, the father of victim Christopher Martinez, held a news conference the day after his son was killed. He decried “the proliferation of guns he believes led to his son's death,” the AP reported. Mr Martinez has also taken to social media, encouraging people to share his message using the hashtag #NotOneMore.
Kate Mayer, another Newtown resident participating in Friday’s demonstration, said she was inspired by Mr Martinez’s action.
“He said it’s time, again, for action,” Ms Mayer said. “The gun lobby in our town has made no move to find a common ground.
“We felt this was the best place to spread this message, again,” she said, indicating the building behind her. Around her, about six of the signs being held up repeated Mr Martinez’s message: Not One More.
Other signs said Let’s Talk Safety, Newtown For Change, and Be A Gun Sense Voter. One man held a sign that read In God We Trust — Not Guns, Not The NRA, Not Lapierre. Nearby, a woman held a sign over her head that said NSSF, Shame On You.
Diane Samples, an ambassador for Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, drove from her home in New Fairfield to participate in Friday’s demonstration.
“I believe NSSF, right here in Newtown, does everything in their power to keep anything from happening legislatively and culturally,” Ms Samples, who was holding one of the #NotOneMore signs, said. “The gun lobby in general is spreading misinformation. Their goal is to confuse people about the issue.
“None of us are anti-Second Amendment,” she continued. “They say we hate the Constitution. That’s not true.
“We believe there should be a much larger amount of responsibility with the Second Amendment, and much greater oversight when it comes to mental illness and the ability to obtain a firearm,” Ms Samples added. “In some states you can walk into a gun store and buy a gun without any training, without a license or proof that you know how to use it. NSSF is against background checks.
“To me,” she said, “that’s incredibly irresponsible.”
It was an ad hoc group, with many ages represented, who stood outside the white building at 11 Mile Hill Road that also houses Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, Inc, or SAAMI. In addition to Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, Ms Morosky said a few members of Newtown Action Alliance were also participating.
“Most of us are friends, who felt compelled to do something,” she said. “We want expanded background checks.
“If families had a way to help those who are ill, this wouldn’t keep happening. The mother [of the shooter in California] said she couldn’t do anything to stop him from buying guns. I think there needs to be a way to stop someone who needs help.”
Friday’s was a peaceful display. No security from NSSF was visible in the parking lot, nor was a police presence noticed. Those participating were all on the same side of the gun control argument. No one representing a pro-gun stance was seen.
Most vehicles passing the group tapped their horns in support. An occasional long horn sounded, drowning out any conversion while the vehicle passed.
Likewise, many drivers and passengers showed thumbs up or peace signs, while only a few offered less suportive gestures.