I went to Hartford yesterday to watch as the CT gun violence and school safety bill was voted on in the legislature. I arrived at 11:30 and the galleries in the Senate were already full. I waited outside to see what would happen, and when I might be allowed inside. The CCDL was there in full effect, and I guess they all decided on the bus ride over that yesterday they were going to try to TALK with us. There is a stereotype of an NRA member, orange neon hat, work boots, OATH KEEPER sweatshirt, beer belly, mustache, you get the picture. But that’s not the whole story. There were also families there – not many, actually I saw only one, but they had two little girls. It is hard for me to understand the culture of guns, because I was not brought up in it. I was, however, brought up skiing, and spent many happy days skiing with my family. People die or get hurt skiing all the time, but it’s usually people who are skiing a trail that is too difficult for them, or in a dangerous manner – usually. There are, of course, tragic accidents, too. Maybe that’s how these people feel about guns. To them guns are sport, family, tradition, and a way to enjoy the outdoors. If someone told me they were going to ban skiing I’d be pretty upset about it, and sad that I wouldn’t be able to create memories with my own children the way my parents did. It is extremely hard for me to make the correlation between skiing and shooting animals, or blasting away at targets, but I think I’m right.
The first guy who approached me yesterday said, “I don’t agree with you guys, but I admire you. You fought for what you believe in, even though I think you’re wrong.” This turned out to be a tactic because he turned right around and asked me how I felt about ruining our Second Amendment. The thing these guys all forget is that the Second Amendment does not begin with the words, “the right to bear arms.” It begins with “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” So I asked this guy if he was part of a militia. He looked confused. I said, “If you believe whole heartedly in the Second Amendment, as it was written, and you own guns, it must be for the purpose of forming a well-regulated militia, right? Did you muster?” Now I really didn’t want to get into it with this guy, I promise. He tried to tell me about the need to overthrow a tyrannical government, and that’s when I said, “Look, I know you’re upset, and I don’t really want to have this conversation.” Then he asked me, “How would you feel if a family member had purchased these firearms as an investment?” I answered honestly, “I would feel they had made a bad investment.” That’s the truth. Invest in something else, like Apple or education. He seemed very irritated, grabbed his jacket and walked off.
I was soon joined by another man, this one older. He wanted to have a little chat about self-defense. He told me that he’s not going to feel safe with only ten rounds. I told him that I felt sorry he lived with such fear. He said that he’s always got a firearm so he’s not afraid. Now, I lived in the East Village of Manhattan for about ten years in a rickety old building with an even more rickety old fire escape that led right up to my window. Never did I feel a gun would make me safer. What I did was close the curtains – thick velvet curtains from Pottery Barn that were a gift. You could not see through them, and my logic was that if someone wanted to break in, they would probably pick an apartment where they could see what was going on inside. So when this man told me that he needs all those bullets at the grocery store, I couldn’t really relate to that. He admitted he’d never had to use his gun in self-defense. Nobody had broken in to his house, or attacked him. I asked if he took his guns into the shower, because they won’t help you in a home invasion if they’re in the other room. He said, not the shower, but the toilet. He brings his gun when he’s on the toilet. He told me he hopes that nobody ever attacks me, because I will be unable to defend myself. I told him I hope he doesn’t shoot his foot off and we left it at that.
There were some very tense moments. One guy tried to talk to a mother from Newtown. She told him to back off, which he did not. She let him have it. This issue is so fraught with emotion on both sides, but really, when kids are dead – especially if you knew and loved those kids, that grief and anger is the strongest emotion on earth. The anger of not being able to buy another assault rifle is no match for that grief.
After about an hour I got inside. Each State Senator gave a speech saying how they were going to vote, expressing how shocked and horrified they were on December 14th. Most said the bill didn’t go far enough – either far enough toward addressing mental health issues, and so they were going to vote “no,” or not far enough in the ban on high-capacity magazines, so they were going to vote “yes” with the understanding that this is not the end of the road. Some proposed amendments to the bill, none of which passed. There was a moment of levity when one Senator said his daughter suggested that all guns be made by Nerf. He voted against the bill.
The bill passed. I went home, tired and famished, and watched the rest of the proceedings on television with a cocktail in my hand like a civilized person. I was very surprised that my representative John Shaban, of whom I have been critical for his lack of candor, voted in favor of the bill, while Dan Carter, who has been very accessible, voted “no.” Dan Carter represents part of Newtown. He said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned the over-reaching nature of the bill and the constitutional implications will continue to promote the growing rift between those that own guns and those that do not, especially in the Newtown community.” I don’t support his rationale at all.
It is done. For now. I’ve been very emotional today. Of course, I’m happy this bill passed. I’m also heartbroken for the families in Newtown. Completely devastated and achingly sad, especially today. The real problem, and what I did not realize before I got into all this, is just how many guns are out there. Guns take what might be a fist fight and turn it to murder. The reason the UK has a higher rate of “violent crime” is that in the UK guns are tightly regulated. Here in the US, what might otherwise be a “violent crime” is often murder. It’s not just mental health. It’s our culture. We have to change the culture. It’s a much harder job, because you can’t pass a bill that makes it uncool to fire guns. But once upon a time smoking was cool, and people once refused to wear seat belts. It will happen. I’m hoping that the Connecticut Effect does just that, and that it is contagious.
To that end, a group of us here in town have organized an awareness campaign aptly called Connecticut Effect. Our goal is education, discussion, and the promotion of common sense, progressive ideas. Our first order of business is a screening of the film Living for 32, a documentary about Colin Goddard, survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting. The film portrays the inspiring story of how Goddard’s life was forever changed on that day, and his determination to make a difference through his work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. There are two screenings, one on THURSDAY, APRIL 25 at 7:00 PM at the BETHEL CINEMA. The other is at JOEL BARLOW HIGH SCHOOL on SUNDAY, APRIL 28 at 4:00 PM. If you live in CT or feel like a road trip I hope you will make it to one of the screenings. If not, come find us on Facebook, or email ConnecticutEffect@gmail.com for more information.