I couldn’t have been prouder to be a resident of Connecticut after this week’s history-making events.
Wednesday, I stayed up into the wee hours of as the morning turned to Thursday to watch as both chambers of the CT General Assembly voted to pass the bipartisan-drafted gun violence prevention legislation. The bill, crafted in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting massacre in Newtown, was signed into law by Gov. Malloy later the same day as it was passed by the legislators.
It’s not perfect legislation. Its detractors say it will be ripped apart on appeal and that it violates constitutional gun rights. Many supporters of stronger gun laws (like me) were relieved that it covered as much as it did—a background check requirement, an expanded assault weapons ban, a ban on the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition, registration of large magazines sold prior to the law, and a weapons offender registry, among other changes. There are also provisions regarding mental health, including training for teachers about mental health issues, and additional funding.
There were some that felt the legislation didn’t go far enough—there was no ‘grandfathering’ for any types of weapons or magazines above 10 rounds, which would have compelled gun owners to turn in or sell certain guns or ammunition. But the relief came from seeing the support for this legislation from such a vast majority of the elected officials.
In the state Senate, the vote passed 26-10; in the House the bill was decisively supported by the ‘yeas’ 105-44.
It might have not happened. With the headquarters of NSSF, one of the larger national gun lobbying organizations, headquartered in Newtown; with the number of firearm and ammunition manufacturers based in the state; and with the organized, vocal presence of gun owners steadily present in Hartford every time there were hearings, I wouldn’t have been surprised if nothing changed in the law. Given how political, how emotional, how angry the debate got before the legislation was even introduced, I’m grateful with the result.
I’m grateful that legislators clearly heard from a majority of their constituents that stronger gun laws had voter support. This had to be true or else the vote wouldn’t have gone the way it did.
I’m grateful that the voice of Connecticut voters counted more than what was heard from gun manufacturers and industry lobbyists. The democratic process worked here.
I’m grateful that support for this legislation came not only from those who typically push for stronger restrictions on guns and ammunition, but also from gun owners.
I’m grateful that the legislators representing Wilton—Rep. Gail Lavielle, Sen. Toni Boucher, and Rep. Tom O’Dea—all voted ‘Yea’ on this legislation.
I’m grateful for the courage of the parents and relatives of those killed in Newtown, and for the families who lost loved ones during other times of gun violence, who came forward to share their stories of why such legislation was so important.
And I’m grateful to have been part of a something dubbed the “Connecticut Effect.” The phrase was coined by an NRA lobbyist who said that efforts to change gun laws would die down once more time passed following Newtown. The words were meant to deride the amount of attention supporters of tougher gun legislation were getting following the awful massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. The words belittled the groundswell of effort that arose after the day when 20 children and six educators were brutally killed by a gunman using the type of gun and ammunition the law addresses.
Instead, the words became a rallying point, motivating thousands to continue to press for change.
To have been in Hartford on Feb. 14 for the March for Change, to know that the emails, calls and rallying had an effect on our legislators, to know that our voices were heard and that we changed the course of right and wrong in the state where we live, is profound. To have been part of a group of people who woke up on Dec. 15 to the realization that they could not be silent about this issue after never having been part of a movement to speak up before, was remarkable.
To know that these laws are now considered the toughest gun laws in the nation, that it helps strengthen national efforts to make gun laws more of a reality, is empowering. And instead of "packing heat" to feel that way, I have something else:
I now call myself a proud, card-carrying member of the “Connecticut Effect.”