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Seeking Common Ground on Gun Violence Legislation

Are legislators moving too fast? Too slow? Proposals going too far, or not far enough? A Newtown Action Alliance meeting provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and concerns.


The speed with which state legislators should move to enact new laws in response to the school shooting in Newtown emerged as a central theme of a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

Hit the brakes, some said. Put it in high gear, others encouraged the six legislators sitting on a panel organized by Newtown Action Alliance, a grassroots group pushing for legislative change. The legislators all are members of , which was created to come up with legislative proposals that will help prevent another tragedy like the one on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 first graders and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook School.

In what state Sen. John McKinney, R-28, called “a very ambitious goal,” the task force had anticipated that each subcommittee — divided by the three issues in its name — would come up with proposals by Feb. 15, and then all 50 members would present a final package of proposals by Feb. 27. The School Security Subcommittee put forth its recommendations on Feb. 19, McKinney said, and the other two are forthcoming.

“I think we all agree our goal is to get it right, not done by the deadline,” he said.

Still, a handful of residents called for the task force to slow down. “Things are moving far too quickly,” Newtown resident Liam Heller said to light applause among the crowd of about 100 people, mostly from town.

Encouraging legislators to wait until an official police report is released, documenting the circumstances that led 20-year-old Adam Lanza to open fire at the school on that December morning, Heller said, “What we’re hearing in the media isn’t true.”

McKinney countered that, while a complete report is not yet available, the information provided by Connecticut State Police to date is factual. “He’s not lying,” McKinney said of state police Lt. J. Paul Vance, “when he comes out and says it was the gun used,” referring to an AR-15. “It was the gun used.”

“We have to deal with fact,” added state Rep. Larry Cafero, R-142.

The AR-15 was one of the weapons Lanza had taken from his mother, Nancy Lanza, after he shot and killed her in their Newtown home, police said. A handgun was another, and that was the weapon that Lanza, who reportedly suffered from some degree of mental health issues, used to kill himself.

Heller was not alone in asking for legislators to take their time. One woman from Sandy Hook said, “We really need to slow down.”

Sheila Matthews, a representative of the mental health nonprofit AbleChild.Org, said, “There is definitely a push to force legislation down our throats.”

According to Matthews, the focus on gun laws and school security was a diversion from the real issue at the core of it all — mental health — and what she argued are scientifically and statistically backed reports, kept from the public, that reveal a direct correlation between prescription drugs and violence and suicide, particularly among children.

“This is a diversion. This is a complete diversion,” she said. “Slow it down.”

As Matthews continued to go on, residents in the audience, legislators and members of Newtown Action Alliance told her to wrap it up and sit down. “Search your souls,” she told the legislators.

‘Please Don’t Slow Down’

For every person asking legislators not to rush, there were those who encouraged them to keep up the pace.

Paul D’Agostino, a self-described Newtown dad, was one. “Please don’t slow down,” he said to applause.

Legislation is simply a means to an end and is not the ultimate goal, he said. “They’re outcomes we’re trying to effect,” he told the legislators.

D’Agostino then suggested the task force think about the longer term — five to 10 years out — and create some sort of enduring body that would be charged with reviewing any newly created legislation to track its progress and mitigate any unintended consequences. “I hate to see it be a one-and-done situation,” he said.

Cafero, a 20-year legislator, said the task force has not discussed that possibility yet. He explained that legislators are constantly reviewing the performance of bills, but priorities often shift with each session.

Another father, Darren Wagner of Sandy Hook, said, “Please continue at your pace.”

Wagner, who said he left a career in law enforcement after suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), added, “I want action. It’s not too soon.”

In response to the competing timelines from residents, Po Murray, the co-chair of Newtown Action Alliance, told Patch after the meeting, “I think there are more of us that want action.”

State Rep. Dan Carter, R-2, said, “We’re trying our very best not to ramrod this through.”

Charlie February 23, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Why feed AZ and other trolls, degrading the dialogue and issue in the process? Ignore them. There is serious work to be done in the next few weeks if you wish to preserve your rights. You and those you know who support your rights should write your legislators now and repeatedly. If you are unaware of the organizations supporting your 2nd Amendment rights, and how you can best protect those rights in the legislature and, more likely, the courts, you'd best get informed quick. Patch is but one medium of many that need to be used to show the flaws in the proposed laws rather than banter with the trolls. Sorry to preach to the choir, but it's crunch time. Thomas and Donald - I've shared your posts with several outside groups who are surprised and pleased that CT has any such advocates. I encourage more sharing of links to your posts on newspaper posts, forums, etc. etc.
Donald Borsch Jr. February 23, 2013 at 09:22 PM
We Are The Second Amendment, indeed. I find it particularly unsettling that in 2013 we are forced to defend The Bill of Rights against the machinations of other Americans. http://wr2a.wordpress.com/
Donald Borsch Jr. February 26, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Charlie, Thank you for such kind affirmation! I try to do what I can. Your words have encouraged me even more, Charlie.
Professor Zwergel February 26, 2013 at 03:14 AM
You ever serve in the US military mr Rambo wannabe?
Bill C March 08, 2013 at 08:20 PM
No common ground here.... New post on CCDL Blog S.B. 1076, An act concerning gun violence…… has nothing to do with gun violence…… by Chris This is a guest post by Jonathan Hardy who handles permit and legislative issues for CCDL. You can email him at permitissues@ccdl.us He also has his own website, and his own blog. First, I will preface this article with a serious call to order: WE MUST be at the legislature Thursday, March 14th. There is a public hearing for this bill and details can be found at the CT General Assembly website, or click here. I know many of us are planning to be at the legislature next week on various days, and the opposition is well aware of this fact. They want to break us down, let’s show them that we WILL NOT stand silent anymore. Let’s make them aware this is not a bill about gun violence, it’s about gun control – period. http://ccdl.us/blog/2013/03/08/sb1076/#more-781 http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/TOB/S/2013SB-01076-R00-SB.htm Sec. 32. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2013) (a) Every person in this state shall register each firearm he or she owns or possesses in accordance with sections 31 to 43, inclusive, of this act. Sec. 33. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2013) (a) On and after July 1, 2014, no person shall purchase or possess ammunition without having first obtained a registration card identifying a firearm suitable for use with that ammunition. Too much for this post....Its at the bottom of the bill. After definitions.

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