US Senator Richard Blumenthal this week told Newtown Action Alliance members that although recent proposed federal legislation to expand criminal background checks for gun purchasers failed to win approval, the matter will return to the Senate for another vote.
“We’re not done,” Sen Blumenthal said of the drive for better gun control through federal legislation.
The survivors of the victims of the 12/14 shooting incident at Sandy Hook School have shown resilience, courage, and strength in their drive for improved federal gun control laws, the senator told about 140 people who attended an alliance forum on gun control held Tuesday, May 7, at the Newtown High School lecture hall.
“We can make America safer and better,” Sen Blumenthal stressed.
Ninety percent of Americans favor expanded criminal background checks, he said.
The Sandy Hook survivors’ efforts for improved federal gun control have had a profound effect on the push for better gun control, Sen Blumenthal said.
Besides expanded background checks, there is a need for federal laws covering high-capacity ammunition magazines, gun trafficking, and “straw” purchases of guns, he said.
The senator drew hearty applause from those attending the panel discussion session, “What’s Next For Gun Safety?”
Sean Scanlon, representing US Senator Christopher Murphy, told alliance members that Sen Murphy will persist in his efforts for improved gun control.
The alliance is a volunteer, ad hoc group that formed after the 12/14 Sandy Hook School shootings with the intent of curbing gun violence through better gun control laws and cultural change.
Dave Ackert, alliance founder, said that he is angry that the senate did not approve the expanded criminal background check legislation.
The alliance did much work toward the goal of having that law approved, he said.
Mr Ackert observed that the harsh comments that are made by people who oppose increased gun control will have the ultimate effect of those people becoming politically neutralized.
The alliance session included a panel discussion with five people commenting on the subject of improved gun control.
Elliot Fineman, president of the National Gun Victims’ Action Council, said the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been an effective lobby group for a long time because it has large resources in terms of people and money. Also, the NRA has used the structure of the electoral process to successfully block improved federal gun control laws for the past 19 years, he said.
Mr Fineman observed that the recently failed Senate bill would have had little practical effect in terms of preventing future gun-related problems.
Mr Fineman said that the lasting public impression generated by the proposed legislation’s failure is that 90 percent of Americans want expanded criminal background checks for gun purchases.
“We have a winning hand…We have a winning hand…Let’s play it,” he said.
Mr Fineman said that it took him a long time to function normally after his son was shot to death as a result of gun violence. He lauded the survivors of those killed in Sandy Hook School for their courage in publicly pursuing better gun control.
Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said that his ad hoc group is “proudly aggressive” in terms of its willingness to take on the politically powerful NRA.
The NRA’s leadership is “out of touch,” he stressed, adding the groups that advocate improved gun control will eventually prevail.
Mr Horwitz offered some advice to the alliance. He urged that group members make their points loudly in highly visible public settings and seek press coverage of their activities. Mr Horwitz said that the alliance displays the best aspects of public activism in its work.
Colin Goddard was wounded in the April 2007 shooting massacre at Virginia Tech. He is a member of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.
Mr Goddard said that the Sandy Hook School incident was a “tipping point” in terms of public sentiment about the need for better gun control. The tragedy clearly illustrated the need for improved gun control, he said.
Mr Goddard said that before the 12/14 shootings, he had been very discouraged about the prospects for better gun control. But he is now motivated to pursue it, he said.
“I think people are more aware of the daily toll of gun violence,” he said. The press is now focusing more attention on gun violence, he noted.
The improved gun control laws approved by the Connecticut General Assembly are “phenomenal,” he said.
Chris Kocher, representing Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said that much has changed on the gun control issue in light of 12/14. People are motivated for change and change will occur, he said.
Although it failed to pass, the recent initiative for expanded criminal background checks for gun purchasers received more positive votes than any such measure did in the past 17 years, he said.
Steve Barton of Southbury was a gunshot victim in the July 2012 movie theater shooting incident in Aurora, Colo. Mr Barton is affiliated with Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Although the Senate’s recent failure to approve improved gun control was discouraging, gun control advocates should remain committed to accomplishing their goals, Mr Barton said. Younger people should be involved in the drive for better gun control, he added.
The issue of gun control is a “life and death” issue, he stressed. “I think history is on our side,” Mr Barton said.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said that the fight for improved gun control will be successful in the long run. “I’m asking all of you to stay in the fight with us,” she said.
Mrs Llodra said she will pursue the matter for the rest of her life. “I will be with you for as long as it takes,” she said.
The children who died at Sandy Hook School deserved to grow up, Mrs Llodra said.