(This story has been updated to include comments made by First Selectman Pat Llodra on Wednesday, October 16.)
The Second Amendment Foundation, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and DefendGunRights.com announced plans last week to join together with other groups to sponsor Guns Save Lives Day on December 14, the first anniversary of 12/14, “because crazy people, criminals and gun control extremists prefer unarmed victims,” the trio of organizations announced by way of a joint press release on October 10.
“We are proclaiming Saturday, December 14 as Guns Save Lives Day,” said Alan Gottlieb, president of The Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of The Citizens Committee.
Within days, however, the group announced a change of plans, moving Guns Save Lives Day to December 15.
“From what I understand, the change was made because at the beginning they were looking at ether December 14 or 15, the 15th being Bill of Rights day,” Dave Workman, the director of communications for The Second Amendment Foundation, said Tuesday morning. “They changed the date to the 15th as a more appropriate day because we understand it’s a sensitive issue. We didn’t want to politicize the event,” he said.
Before that change of plans was announced, the decision to celebrate guns and the rights of their owners created a debate. Many residents, including Newtown’s top elected official, were angry at the decision to do anything other than quietly honor those who had been killed on 12/14. Talk show hosts and newspapers across the country picked up on the announcement and debated the timing of the “project,” as the day was referred to at GunsSaveLives.com.
First Selectman Pat Llodra was not pleased with last week’s announcement.
“For this group to use our Sandy Hook tragedy as a springboard for political action is disrespectful to our community of Newtown and is of particularly insensitive timing,” Mrs Llodra said on October 11. “I respect their right to promote their beliefs regarding guns. I ask that they respect our community and not use us for their purposes.
“We will not host a political rally of any stripe on that day and we hope that all such inclined persons understand that they and their agenda are not welcome. We ask for privacy and expect that all caring folks, including the media, will accommodate us. Those persons, who choose to not accede to our request to be left alone, [will] show the world their own moral and ethical fiber.”
Unavailable for comment on Tuesday, Mrs Llodra sounded less than pleased on Wednesday morning when she had a moment to respond to the change of plans.
“Too little too late,” said the first selectman.
Newtown Action Alliance also called the initial plans for Guns Save Lives Day disgraceful.
Dave Ackert, chairman of Newtown Action Alliance, issued the following statement on NAA’s Facebook page on October 13:
“As December approaches, the Newtown community has been planning to honor the memories of our twenty first-graders and six brave teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School a year ago. Unfortunately, the gun industry, along with a fringe group of gun enthusiasts, have taken it upon themselves to proclaim 12/14/13 ‘Guns Save Lives Day’. Using our day of mourning and remembrance to focus on the guns that took the lives of our children and teachers rather than celebrating their memories with love and compassion is disgraceful.
“Newtown Action Alliance advocates for closing the loopholes in the background check system, gun trafficking laws, and above all else, cultural change. Unfortunately, there is a fringe element that would rather glorify inanimate objects that are designed to inflict harm, instead of engaging honorably toward the type of change we are hoping to see.”
On Monday evening, NAA offered a new post on its Facebook page, acknowledging the change of plans, “that they will now celebrate their contention that more guns will make for a safer society on the 15th… to coincide with the signing of The Bill of Rights, instead of the massacre of 20 children and six educators in an elementary school
“We applaud this display of compassion and decency. This is a hopeful sign,” the post said in part.
Tuesday morning, Mr Ackert offered additional thoughts on behalf of NAA.
“To us, we’re not interested in taking away anybody’s guns or rights. We’re more interested in saving lives, and changing culture in a positive way,” he told The Bee.
“This anniversary that’s coming up, for us, like most people in Newtown, is about hugging human beings, hugging each other, hugging children, and not hugging guns or inanimate objects that are intended to inflict harm.
“That’ what we’re going to be doing,” he continued. “And that’s what we hope — and are confident — that most of America will be doing that day and going forward.”
In addition to the events being planned by the three groups, an online petition has been launched for individuals to sign in support of the right to own a firearm. The groups are planning events and activities in all 50 states to counter “the anticipated push by the gun prohibition lobby to exploit the anniversary of the Newtown tragedy to push their political agenda,” according to an October 10 press release.
“The event is designed to counteract what certainly will be a day of activism and misinformation from the gun prohibition lobby,” said Larry Ward, founder of DefendGunRights.com. “We wanted to ensure that the public has the facts on gun rights and understand how many Americans stand with them in defense of Second Amendment rights.”
“Americans are concerned about attempts to erode their gun ownership rights, and for good reason,” said Mr Gottlieb. “Our mission with Guns Save Lives Day is to assure them our groups are working day and night to thwart government gun-grabbers at every opportunity. We are going to show America that there is a good side to guns.”
“The Founders understood what many modern-day politicians do not: that Americans are safer — from crime and tyranny — when they have the means to defend themselves,” added Mr Ward.
“No one at Newtown should have been a victim,” Mr Gottlieb said, “and no one in the future should be victimized by laws that do not allow people to defend themselves.”
On October 14, the website GunsSaveLives.com was updated, with the page’s banner hearalding the new date of December 15, 2013.
The website itself was also updated, with a note that read “Guns Save Lives Day is on December 15, 2013, Bill of Rights Day, the day after the Anniversary of Newtown. We plan to honor these victims by doing everything within our power to prevent misguided gun control laws from leaving Americans defenseless or worse victims. Don’t be a victim, arm yourself.”
Sandy Hook Promise issued a statement concerning the initial plans for Guns Save Lives Day. SHP’s announcement came in response to what the organization said was “a noisy debate” that had already started following the introduction of Guns Save Lives Day.
The SHP statement was released on behalf of Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, parents of Daniel and Dylan, two of the children killed on 12/14. The statement says in part that 12/14 “is not a day to be politicized or polarizing. It is a day for remembrance and reflection, a day of love.”
Sandy Hook Promise created its own petition, called Nothing But Love On December 14.
December 14, 2013, will be “a day for parents to hug their children and people to embrace their families, not a day to talk about guns,” the statement continues. “Together, we can show the world that our love for our children, all of our children, outweighs our differences, and that this love can unite us — not divide us.”