While the question of ‘when’ loomed large at a town hall meeting organized by Newtown Action Alliance Tuesday night, the other topic on people’s minds was what are the proposals is leaning toward. And like with the timeline, residents had different ideas about what is needed — and what isn’t.
While the Task Force is looking at three issues, much of the discussion centered around guns, gun laws and gun violence.
All six legislators repeatedly said that they have talked about every angle and possibility that one can come up with, and that all options are on the table. It is the areas where there is common ground that they will seek to take immediate action.
One such area, legislators said and the majority of residents who spoke seemed to agree, is putting in place a permit process for purchasing “long guns,” like rifles and shotguns. Currently, in Connecticut, a permit is only required when purchasing a handgun — and that includes a background check as well as a mandatory safety class.
Other gun-related proposals discussed, some similar to those proposed by President Barack Obama, include:
- Assault rifle ban
- Magazine limits
- Universal background check
- Tighter regulations around sales
- Gun offender registry program
- Gun buy back programs
Other residents urged legislators to first review existing gun laws and better enforce them before enacting new ones, some noting that criminals do not follow laws and, therefore, law-abiding citizens are the ones who suffer and who, potentially, could be put at greater risk.
Another resident suggested that legislators consider using civil liability as a tool. “We have strict liability for dog owners, but not for gun owners,” she said.
Donald Borsch Jr., of Bethel, a self-described “filthy, registered Libertarian Independent,” posed a series of rhetorical questions, asking legislators if they will be able to guarantee no more gun violence, and then said, “You can’t legislate morality.”
In response, McKinney drew the loudest applause of the night when he said he would never stand up and say legislation will stop all gun violence, but that the state should do whatever it can to make Connecticut safer.
The Process Moving Forward
The Task Force has already held four hearings, including one in Newtown, as it has sought to gather public input on the issues. The subcommittees are working on their final proposals, which will then be considered by the full task force.
Legislators in attendance Tuesday night said they expect the full package of proposals to be the subject of a final public hearing before it goes to the floor for a vote. They further related that it’s likely there will be at least three separate bills, one for each issue, and possibly other related bills that will move through the process, too.
A Model for Washington
As the meeting ran its course, legislators and residents began to remark and compliment each other about how civil and open-minded everyone was being. “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing tonight,” said one gun owner.
“These issues and this event hit all of us in a way that we realize we shouldn’t be doing those types of things,” McKinney said, referring to the partisanship that has plagued Washington and, at times, reared its head in Hartford.
“Meaningful change can arrive in Connecticut, and Newtown can drive it,” said state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-106, who districts includes about 90% of Newtown.
Reflecting on the night, Murray said she was appreciative of how cordial the speakers were. She was particularly pleased that gun owners had come to share their thoughts. “I think it went really well. I’m feeling optimistic,” she said.
Admittedly new to the entire process, earlier in the evening, Murray called herself and those involved in Newtown Action Alliance “accidental activists.”