Gun owners, opponents clash at Conn. hearing in wake of Newtown
(MCT) — HARTFORD, Conn. — More than 1,000 Connecticut residents descended upon the state Capitol on Monday to voice their often-emotional views on gun control in the wake of the shooting massacre last month at a Newtown elementary school.
Some speakers called for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-caliber magazines that allowed killer Adam Lanza of Newtown to shoot 20 children and six educators in a span of about six minutes.
Multiple speakers countered that any gun control laws would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens who have not broken the law. They said that criminals, like Lanza, have always disregarded the law and would continue to do so. They said that the Virginia Tech shooter did not use an assault weapon, and the Columbine High School killers committed their crimes during the federal assault weapons ban.
Overall, an estimated 1,400 citizens packed into the Capitol complex, spilling into overflow rooms where they watched the actual testimony from Room 2C — the largest hearing room in the building.
Some witnesses blamed Lanza and his mother, who owned the guns that he stole before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012.
“The parents have to know their child and their behavior,” said Gregory J. Droniak, a 58-year-old lifetime member of the NRA from Derby. “I’m opposed to gun-free zones. Sandy Hook was a gun-free zone.”
Tim Rockefeller of North Branford, an ex-Marine, said, “I don’t believe any law would stop a madman from killing his own mother.”
Rockefeller said he was concerned that many of those testifying had been using the wrong terms, in his view.
“The term ‘assault weapon’ is a political term, not a gun term,” Rockefeller told lawmakers. “An assault weapon is a made-up term.”
Like other speakers, Rockefeller received polite applause at the end of his testimony.
The two co-founders of the March for Change mentioned that their group will be holding a large rally outside the state Capitol on Valentine’s Day — Feb. 14.
Nancy Lefkowitz of Fairfield, one of the co-founders of the March for Change, said that there has been a “gross misinterpretation of the Second Amendment” that has allowed citizens to purchase “killing machines” that can allow shooters to mow down citizens in massacres in schools, movie theatres and shopping malls.
The Newtown shootings, she said, “turned thousands of residents of this state into single-issue voters.” She told legislators that her group will be watching closely on how they vote on the gun issues.
Meg Staunton of Fairfield, a fellow co-founder of the March for Change, told lawmakers in her brief testimony that public opinion polls show that the general public wants gun control.
“Why are people saying this legislation will be difficult or almost impossible to pass?” Staunton asked legislators. “People will live or die based on how you decide to vote.”
Christopher Yen of Norwalk, a Harvard graduate who is now employed by a hedge fund in Connecticut, said the answers on gun control should come from common sense. He is opposed to any extension of the assault weapons ban that had been enacted and has since expired.
“These ideas have been tried before at the federal level from 1994 to 2004,” Yen said. “Columbine, Connecticut lottery. … These laws don’t work. They failed to save a single life. … Virginia Tech … these laws would have done nothing. … Ten-round magazine? Seven-round limit? Doesn’t make a difference. … Your legislative efforts are better spent elsewhere.”
Like others, his comments received a round of applause from gun supporters.
Daniel A. Novak, a 64-year-old Manchester resident and gun permit-holder who was wearing a baseball cap with the letters NRA emblazoned in yellow, said he bought a Baretta .32-caliber that helped him to protect himself from “road ragers and hooligans.
He said that his neighbors have guns, too, and he feels safe in his residential neighborhood. He said he pays about $4,000 per year in property taxes in Manchester and would not mind if some of the money was spent to pay police officers who would work in the elementary schools.
Michael Anderson of New Hartford said that he owns an AR-15 rifle “to protect myself and my family” from any intruders or criminals. He described the AR-15 as a “modern sporting rifle.”
“It is the tool, not the man,” Anderson told lawmakers Monday afternoon as lawmakers still had not finished the first page of speakers on the list.
Cromwell resident John H. Barry, 59, said he and his wife both oppose all gun control laws except a provision for universal background checks on the purchase of weapons. He said that, decades ago, the general public could buy a submachine gun from the Sears Roebuck catalog. He said he keeps a loaded gun, unlocked, in his house because of criminal acts in the neighborhood.
“Why do we need so-called assault rifles in a civilized society?” Barry asked. “Ex post facto. Please Google it. … Bullet tax. Only in Connecticut would a massacre result in a tax proposal.”
Michael Schwabik, 43, of Cromwell said that Lanza killed his own mother and would not be stopped by any law that the legislature could pass in the future. A member of the Connecticut National Guard, he said there is “a big difference” between rifles issued to members of the military and those that are available to the general public.