NORWALK, Conn. – At the second mass shooting-inspired vigil held in eight days, Norwalk leaders called for action, not “thoughts and prayers.”
“If you are not torn apart, I don’t know what to say. Silence is no longer enough; talking is no longer enough. Action is required right now. We cannot do this anymore. This is not another day; there are 18 children who are dead today,” said the Rev. Elisabeth Abel, pastor of Cornerstone Church, Wednesday on the town green.
More than 80 people gathered Wednesday at the vigil organized by Mayor Harry Rilling and State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) to grieve the 21 victims of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
On May 18, the previous Wednesday, Duff and Rilling held a vigil in response to a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.
“Just 10 days ago we were standing together because of the shootout in Buffalo for racist motives,” Abel said. “Today we have children murdered by a child who was 18. How is that acceptable?”
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said he thought the shooting nearly a decade ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown would inspire change in federal gun regulations. But it didn’t.
“I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do,” he said. “If this country can’t act when that stuff happens, day in and day out, week in, week out, year in and year out, I don’t know what it takes.”
He had just been on CNN, where he was asked about an accusation from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that Democrats are “politicizing” the Texas massacre.
“Damn right, we’re going to politicize this,” he said. “Because politics is how we get things done in this country…. We’re a democracy. Politics makes us a better country. Politics is how we do things. And it’s about time we started protecting the children of this nation.”
But, “I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do that,” Himes said, adding that he draws inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, when people acted even when they knew violence might be the result, feeling like “it might never work.”
It did work, he said. “It took a generation…. I draw some inspiration from the idea that eventually we get there. I don’t know how I don’t know when but I do know that it’s not our responsibility to see it all the way through…. It is our responsibility to keep trying.”
“The one thing that we’re not politicizing the loss of life,” the Rev. Lindsay Curtis said. “When we talk about trying to do something that’s at the polling. Voting. We know where the opposition is. Maybe it requires us sending some letters, some cards to those who are in opposition.”
Jeremy Stein of Connecticut Against Gun Violence urged attendees to join an activist group, any group working to change gun laws.
“It is time to get off the sidelines,” Stein said. “We have to vote, we have to demand justice, we have to demand that there are common sense gun laws not just here in Connecticut, but around the country.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), speaking to the gathering by cell phone, and Himes both noted that Connecticut has toughened its gun laws after the Sandy Hook massacre.
“The guns that were used yesterday are illegal here in the state of Connecticut,” Duff said. “I am proud of that.”
He added, “We’re not an island. We can’t guarantee anything for the future. We did take what we could do, we make laws that has since then made our state so much safer. We reduced gun violence, gun crime.”
“I feel one-third so sad this morning,” Duff said. “My heart hurts so much… I feel two-thirds angry about what has happened as well… for those who rollback the laws that prot ect this country.” He explained, “Governors and legislators have literally rolled back laws, that guns are so much easier to get in Texas. And this is no joke: It’s probably easier to get a gun and buy a gun than it is to buy a toaster.”
He urged people to vote for candidates who believe in gun reform.
“We can win this battle. Because this is for the heart and soul of the country,” Duff said. “We can do this. But we need people to work and fight, to gather and to pray. We need everything, we need everybody, all hands on deck.”
The photo at top was contributed by Tracy Craighead.