NORWALK, Conn. – The bi-partisan spirit ruled on Norwalk’s Common Council floor Tuesday evening as members calmly debated two words and four paragraphs in relation to the serious topic of gun violence, echoing concerns expressed on the national stage.
The Resolution in Favor of Responsible Gun Laws and their enforcement, sponsored by council members David McCarthy (R-District E), Michael Geake (U-District B), Sarah Mann (R-At Large), Bruce Kimmel (D-District D), Jerry Petrini (R-District D), Michelle Maggio (R-District C) and David Watts (D-District A), was moved up the agenda in the convivial atmosphere of the moment, a procedural move that only a parliamentarian would appreciate, but showing the cooperative spirit. Four paragraphs from Councilwoman Anna Duleep’s (D-At Large) resolution promoting Thursday’s March for Change were added to the resolution. There was even a victory for a citizen, as a word was changed in response to a complaint uttered during the public speaking portion of the meeting.
The resolution was “truly the product of the (Health, Welfare and Public Safety) committee,” said Kimmel, who wanted it discussed during the committee portion of the meeting as a matter of symbolism. Duleep agreed. She was surprised when McCarthy, who originated the resolution, asked to amend it to include part of her resolution.
“The second resolution might benefit from some work in committee,” McCarthy said. “Given the timeliness of it, I don’t want it to get lost.”
McCarthy also immediately announced that he wanted to change a word in response to Diane Lauricella, who took exception to the part of the resolution that referred to plummeting crime in Norwalk.
“Please don’t try to mask the increased gun violence with the reduction of overall violence,” Lauricella said. “Change this one line. I was really surprised you guys tried to sneak it in.”
The entire line was eventually removed from the resolution. “I chose the word plummeted, that made it through all of our discussions,” McCarthy said. “I did not mean to sneak that through at all.”
Duleep questioned the statistics mentioned in the resolution. Watts said the resolution wasn’t perfect but it didn’t need to be nit-picked.
“The intent was to speak out on illegal guns and try to do it in a bipartisan way,” Watts said. “I found Dave to be open. We had an open discussion … everyone participated line by line.”
McCarthy said the resolution benefited from being worked on in committee and that it was good it hadn’t been sprung on everyone as a surprise. Petrini said everyone was “very, very far apart” when the resolution was presented in its raw form.
“We have a lot of important things facing us,” he said. “The partisan politics – let it all be like this.”
Councilman Matt Miklave was unsuccessful in getting one word changed, though. Miklave said the early release program should be “reviewed” instead of “suspended.” Republicans strongly objected to that.
Miklave argued that the criminal justice system unfairly penalizes those who don’t have the opportunities more affluent people have. Kimmel said he understood Miklave’s objections but said the program isn’t working at present. Watt s said he disagreed with Miklave, as he feels responsible when his constituents must deal with a shooting in their neighborhood.
Warren Peña agreed with Miklave, saying he knew people, people he had grown up with in South Norwalk, who had been released early, making all the difference in their lives.
Miklave’s motion was defeated, with only three votes in his favor; his, Duleep’s and Peña’s.
The resolution then passed unanimously and the bi-partisan feeling began to fade.
Duleep made an effort at the end of the lengthy meeting to get her resolution considered. It was instead sent down to committee.
The non-binding product of all the discussion:
WHEREAS, firearms are used in over 2,000 crimes every year in Connecticut.
WHEREAS, in Connecticut, 60 percent of murders are committed by illegal firearms.
WHEREAS, in Connecticut, 23 percent of “small-city” 9th and 10th graders and 15 percent of affluent suburban 9th and 10th graders said that it would be “sort of easy” or “very easy” to get an illegal gun.
WHEREAS, in Connecticut, more than 85 percent of gun crimes are committed by people who cannot legally purchase guns.
WHEREAS, in Connecticut, there is already a ban on the sale of “assault weapons” as defined in Sec. 53-202a Chapter 943 of the Connecticut General Statutes as well as other laws related to the purchase of guns.
WHEREAS, on June 27, 2012, a Meriden convenience store owner named Ibrahim Ghazal was shot and killed by a violent felon with illegal gun related felony convictions released under the state’s“Early Release Program.”
WHEREAS, in Connecticut, of the 7,000 prisoners released under the “Early Release Program,” over 10 percent of them have been arrested for subsequent violent crimes, including many shootings with illegal guns, and are back behind bars.
WHEREAS, in the City of Norwalk, any crime committed with an illegal gun is of concern.
WHEREAS, Norwalk has experienced its share of gun violence due to the spread of illegal guns of all kinds.
WHEREAS, the city of Norwalk, its police department, and the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have experienced significant success in arresting those involved with the crime of gun running and illegal gun possession.
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk that the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut should increase the penalties for illegal gun-related crime, especially when it occurs near a school, and cause the enforcement of those laws already enacted, and the prosecution of those arrested under those laws, and facilitate the incarceration of those convicted under those laws.
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk that the chief of police is encouraged to continue his work to reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets.
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the city of Norwalk that the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut should suspend its early release program for violent felons for further study.
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk that we support the bicameral and bipartisan approach taken by the Connecticut General Assembly to address gun safety legislation in the aftermath of the mass murders and suicide in the Sandy Hook neighborhood of Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012; and
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk that we fully expect the needs of Connecticut’s sixth largest municipality to be a significant factor in the deliberative process of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety; and
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk that we support the efforts of March for Change and Connecticut Against Gun Violence to encourage the Connecticut General Assembly to collaborate on reasonable gun safety legislation in a timely fashion; and
THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk we encourage the 86,000 residents of Norwalk to communicate their views to the Connecticut General Assembly by attending the Feb. 14, 2013 March for Change and submitting testimony online via www.cga.ct.gov/ASaferConnecticut.
ADOPTED by the Common Council of the City of Norwalk on Feb. 12, 2013
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