Dave Stowe, vice chairman of Newtown Action Alliance, joined more than 50 Newtown, Sandy Hook, and area residents in Greenwich on Monday, July 21, where at least an additional 150 people gathered to protest the appearance of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Gov Christie was fundraising in the Bell Haven area of Greenwich for Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.
“Christie, just a few weeks back, had the audacity to refuse to meet with Sandy Hook families saying that he was too busy and then, after making sure that they had left, he quickly vetoed a bill which would have reduced the legal magazine capacity for firearms in New Jersey from 15 to 10,” said Mr Stowe. “[Attendance at the protest on Monday] was a great example of the passionate and committed coalition of groups that have [been] working hard in Connecticut to promote gun violence prevention. The last count that I had, personally,” said Mr Stowe in reference to Monday’s crowd, “was over 200 people; and some reporters put the turnout as high as 250.”
Equally repugnant to protestors was Gov Christie’s labeling of limiting the number of bullets as “trivial” in combating gun violence, as reported earlier this month by Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, after their failed attempt to meet with the New Jersey governor. Ms Hockley and Mr Barden both lost children in the shooting at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012.
“His refusal to meet with us is a cowardly political move, but his statement accusing us of ‘grandstanding’ and furthering ‘empty rhetoric’ is a blow to the memories of our children. Limiting the number of bullets loaded into a gun is not ‘trivial.’ We know that smaller magazines would have saved more lives at Sandy Hook Elementary, possibly even the lives of our own children,” said Ms Hockley and Mr Barden in the statement released July 11. “If Governor Christie truly wants to make meaningful reform, then focusing on what actually works would include the mental health reforms he proposes plus the limitation on high capacity magazines.”
Newtown resident Matthew Cole, the Democratic candidate for State Representative, was among the local people at the July 21 protest.
“I decided to go because it felt like it was the right thing to do,” Mr Cole said. “I felt it was a great show of support for all the gun violence prevention measures so many in town have worked for, these past months. It was humbling to be a part of the day and it was inspiring to see private citizens have more courage than those in or seeking higher elected offices,” he said.
What, if anything, Gov Christie took away from seeing the mass of protestors is hard to say, said Mr Cole.
“I think he got the message, but I don’t think he’s the kind of person who will take criticism, be it constructive or otherwise. To not meet with the parents from Sandy Hook, even though they had a petition with 55,000 signatures, is kind of low, in my opinion,” he added.
Many in Newtown took great offense to Gov Christie’s response to Sandy Hook parents, Mr Stowe said.
“We know that the lives of the children in Sandy Hook Elementary who ran out when the shooter changed magazines are not trivial. We know that the life of the New Jersey police officer that was taken last week in Jersey City, when he was shot at 13 times through the windshield of his police cruiser, is not trivial. We know that the life of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was shot and killed in Tucson, is not trivial; no one’s life is,” he told The Bee, Tuesday, July 22.
“Newtowners made a strong statement. Chris Christie and his agenda are not welcome in Connecticut. Tom Foley has said that he would veto any new gun legislation and that if he had been governor, things would have been much different last April when Connecticut’s historic legislation was passed. We are standing up and showing legislators that they will be held accountable for their positions on gun safety. Many people are now single issue voters,” stressed Mr Stowe, “and are going to make legislators know that they are watching.”
Newtown Action Alliance planned and facilitated this event in conjunction with partners including Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence, and Enough Campaign.
“A big thank you goes out to Kate Mayer of Newtown,” Mr Stowe said, “for her continued passion on this issue and for putting together the bus to take people to Greenwich.”
Newtown Action Alliance is an action-based grassroots organization founded by Newtown residents in the weeks after December 14, 2012, dedicated to reversing the escalating gun violence epidemic in this nation through the introduction of smarter, safer gun laws and broader cultural change.