As President Biden hails Hartford gun law, activists have mixed feelings 2023

Tara Donnelly thought of the tragedy that brought her to the gun control summit Friday morning, where Gov. Ned Lamont told the packed crowd that the nation needs laws requiring safe firearm storage.

A jewelry-store thief killed Donnelly’s parents in 2005.

In the two decades since, she has joined a campaign for stronger gun laws, which on Friday celebrated one year since the passing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which backers called a long-overdue response to America’s weapons.

Donnelly stated that gun violence successes are bittersweet for survivors. We’re grateful. It cost.”

On Friday, the celebration was a premeditated time to make a statement at the start of another lengthy presidential campaign and show the nation that a gun safety movement is alive and changing.

“I believe we’ve reached a tipping point in this nation, I really do, swear to God,” President Joe Biden told the excited gathering of over 700. “People in this room are the big reason why we reached that tipping point.”

“We are not finished,” Biden declared.

Trevon Bosley of Chicago, one of several young people who introduced Biden, said the issue has compelled his generation to grow up fast and become active.

“This crisis has forced youth to put down toys and pick up bull horns,” he remarked. “It has forced youth to put down fun and innocence and pick up desperation and survival and, most importantly, to put down their childhood and pick up a nation.”

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Act now

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who organized Friday’s day-long event that brought some of the most emotionally wounded by gun violence, acknowledged previous failings and vowed change.

Post-Sandy Hook. The current anti-gun violence campaign had several setbacks. We kept going in Washington despite losing votes. We kept organizing, so by last summer we had more volunteers, activists, resources, and were stronger than the gun lobby,” he said.

“And so, I believe this in our bones, I believe that last summer represented a paradigm shift in the politics surrounding this issue,” Murphy concluded. I think the next decade is ours. Today we will discuss the bipartisan Safer Communities Act and how to execute it, but until no child fears for their life in school or on the way to school, our job is not done.

However, many Americans disagree with the boisterous audience in West Hartford Friday since significant parts of the country oppose gun control.

Recent court judgments and strong gun sales suggest that momentum is still against gun control.

“When people are asking why are they buying so many firearms, it comes down to a very simple reason — people are concerned for their personal safety and their safety in their homes,” said Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman Mark Oliva, who did not attend Friday’s gun safety summit.

Oliva said that meaningful weapons legislation is unlikely to pass during Biden’s tenure since Congress is still bitterly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Hope and despair

For every wave of applause to applaud summit accomplishments, including Biden’s keynote address, there was genuine anguish.

“It was very overwhelming today in a sense that it brought back a lot of memories, some of pain and some of anger,” said New Haven community outreach coordinator Sean Reeves, who claimed he was both a “perpetrator” and victim of gun violence after losing his 16-year-old son to a shooting in 2011.

Reeves said he hoped state and federal laws will soon focus more on avoiding community gun violence in Black and brown areas rather than major massacres.

“It took us this long to get here and it’s going to take us 100 years to erase what’s been done to us for over 400 years,” Reeves added.

Ana Grace’s mother, Nelba Marquez-Greene, told the crowd she almost didn’t attend the summit.

“My identity is reduced to three words: Sandy Hook mom, and it’s why I almost didn’t come,” she remarked, leading the crowd in a moment of quiet. “Survivors deserve so much more than exploitation and superhero capes.”

On Friday, Moms Demand Action, CT Against Gun Violence, March for Our Lives, and the Brady Campaign’s red, orange, blue, and purple t-shirts packed the room. “A small showing of this movement’s collective power” packed the auditorium hours before the president’s arrival, Murphy said.

Mayors like New Haven’s Justin Elicker are grappling with a proliferation of weapons from states with lax gun laws and, increasingly, from internet sales. Connecticut’s latest gun safety law expansion is a success.

Elicker said New Haven police had confiscated 130 illicit guns so far this year, up roughly 30% from previous year.

I think there’s optimism and discouragement because of the great success at the national and state levels.

Elicker said. On the other hand, Supreme Court judgements are undoing a lot of work and are profoundly discouraging.

After decades of Congressional gridlock, advocates on Friday credited Biden and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who supported the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act with saving lives through new policies like enhanced background checks, a crackdown on illegal gun dealers, and closing the “boyfriend loophole” that allowed some convicted abusers to access guns.

While other components of the law, such as millions of dollars in financing to urge states to pass “Red Flag” laws, have had mixed success, supporters like Donnelly noted that little advances have further empowered them.

“We’ve been told it takes time,” Donnelly added. “I think the time is now, we’re done waiting, losing our children, losing our parents. We’re done.”

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