At last.

by heatherwhaley

Phillip W. Mauriello, Erin Nikitchyuk

Last Thursday I was at home, trying to do some laundry, as people do, when there was a knock at my door.  It startled me, and my dog.  Looking out the window I saw a man.  My first thought was, “This guy is here from the NRA to kill me.  I wish I had a Bushmaster.”  No, I’m joking.  The man explained that he was from CT News 12 and asked if he could talk to me about my views on gun control.  Naturally I told him to hang on so that I had time to Google him and make sure he wasn’t actually a maniac.  The guy checked out, and he and his nice cameraman came in and we had a chat.

He was there because Thursday had been declared a “Day of Action” in the Gun Violence Prevention movement, and despite my kids’ pleas to go to home and do NOTHING that afternoon, we went to Newtown for a little rally in front of the NSSF.  It was actually fun.  There were a bunch of NRA members there, but aside from one rude man who insisted on smoking a cigar right next to us, everyone was polite.  The kids had fun getting cars and trucks to honk for common sense gun reform.  My daughter was even interviewed for television, granted it was German public television, but still.

Kids are on the front lines of gun violence.  Whether it’s being afraid of violence occurring every day in your own neighborhood, or hiding in classroom closets for lockdowns, they suffer all the repercussions.  As I said back in December, my children are the entire reason I’m involved in this.  I just could not see something so out of balance, so out of control, and not try to change it. When I was a sophomore in high school a woman came to lecture us on environmental protection and said, “This is going to be your responsibility.  You will have to change this.” I remember thinking, “I’m fifteen.  Why don’t YOU do something about it NOW, so it’s not an even bigger mess by the time I’m able to be responsible for anything?  Where is your responsibility?!”  Maybe it’s the same now.  I’m the adult.  I have to right what is wrong.  Not later.  Now.

We had a quick dinner, and again to my kids’ dismay we headed to the library where our local state representatives, Toni Boucher, Dan Carter, and John Shaban were holding a town hall meeting regarding the upcoming legislative session.  There were about thirty people in attendance, including one gentleman wearing a sandwich board reading, “I’m a law-abiding gun owner, so why am I the bad guy?”  The conversation finally got around to guns and one young man asked Rep. Shaban why his views on gun violence prevention were not profiled in a news story entitled, “Where They Stand” or something.  I missed that story, but he explained that every state representative had answered a set of questions regarding which new legislation they supported.  Rep. Shaban said that he didn’t answer their questions, but instead had written his views, or something.  It was unclear.  So he was asked to clarify.  I have heard State Senator Toni Boucher speak many times, and she is fairly straight forward about her views.  Likewise I have had many conversations with Representative Carter, and while I disagree with him on many counts, he is always forthcoming and open to discussion.  I have not heard Rep. Shaban once say where he stood, aside from a vague, “We shouldn’t just do something symbolic that’s not going to lead to a decrease in violence,” or words to that effect.  So when directly asked last Thursday what his views were, I sat up in my chair.  “I think we need stronger gun laws,” he said.  I think he was just going to leave it at that, but I asked, “Could you be more specific?” He said that he supported enhancing our assault weapons ban.  I asked, “Do you mean taking the legal limit of characteristics similar to an assault weapon from two to one?”  And he said, “…Yeah, I guess that’s what we’re talking about.”  So, there it was.  He went on to say that he’s in favor of a ban on high-capacity magazines.  But when I asked about possession, he said no.  I pointed out that there is no way to enforce that sort of law, and that each of them knew there was no way to enforce that, so what they were doing was, in effect, nothing.  They did not argue.

Which brings us to today.  It was announced yesterday that the CT State Legislature had reached an agreement, and a bill would be voted on on Wednesday.  This bill is the strongest gun legislation in the country.  It includes many good things, a ban on assault weapons, the creation of a gun violence offender registry, a ban on high-capacity magazines.  But it grandfathers in the assault weapons already possessed, as well as high-capacity magazines already possessed.  At the very least those magazines have to go.  As was stated in an Editorial in the Hartford Courant, “Just ban them.”

Tomorrow many of us will go back to Hartford.   I imagine it will be a celebration of sorts, because we will get so much of what we wanted.  But the work is far from over.  The Connecticut Effect is just getting started.

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