NORWALK, Conn. — More than 120 people gathered Thursday evening at City Hall to honor lives lost last weekend and inspire energy for change.
“We have had shooting after shooting and we have not had action. We need people to come together to demand that we have action,” said State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), who worked with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to organize the Vigil for Lives Lost. “…I appreciate all of you coming out here tonight and saying enough is enough, that we don’t have to live like this.”
The vigil came four days after the nation was shocked by back-to-back mass shootings, one in El Paso, Texas, that took 22 lives and another in Dayton, Ohio, that took nine lives. References were made Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a House-passed bills that would toughen background check processes for gun purchases, although some analysts say that neither bill would have prevented either massacre.
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks,” suggesting that the legislation be paired with immigration revisions.
The Dayton killer was “neutralized” by police just 30 seconds into his rampage, news reports say. Duff noted that it only took 30 seconds for the shooter to kill nine people and injure 27 because he used a high capacity rifle.
“I was stunned and saddened… I had a feeling of really just shaken to my core and feeling like we shouldn’t have to live like this,” Duff said. “… We can do better than that in this country and we must do better than that in this country.”
The vigil featured Neddy Smith, whose lost a cousin to gun violence a year and a half ago, singing “Children are the future, will the children be protected?” and prayers from Rabbi Ita Paskind. Ethan Smith read the names of the victims and Abbey Clements, a teacher who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, calling the violence “a public health crisis that demands urgent action.”
Clements was just referring to mass shootings but killings in Bridgeport and other cities. There are 100 people killed daily, she said.
“This is not about mental health. It’s not about video games. It’s not about movies. Those are all NRA talking points. This is about easy access to guns,” she said, urging that McConnell call the Senate back into session and take up background checks and a red flag law to allow authorities to temporarily take away the guns of a person considered suicidal or an imminent threat to others.
Her comments were echoed by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich).
“Every other country on this planet has the Internet, has video games, has violence, has mental health issues but no other country dedicates itself to putting firearms into the hands of everyone,” Himes said, congratulating the crowd for making McConnell’s life difficult with “the noise you are making.”
Thursday evening news reports quote McConnell as planning to have gun control measures on the table when Congress reconvenes in September, and specifically mentioning background checks.
Himes referred to other action.
“Your presence here tonight, it is a spark…. it matters, for the first time in decades, the Congress approved a budget that gave money to the government to study gun violence as a public health problem. That is progress,” Himes said.
“We honor those who have died by demanding action. That’s what we want to do tonight,” Duff said. “There is absolutely no right out there that is absolute. Our courts have always put parameters on every right that we have, and that is true for the second amendment. In CT We have passed some very strict laws and the courts have upheld those laws. If only our congress and other states would follow the lead that Connecticut has paved them, we would then see the same type of reduction of violence and crime that we see in Connecticut.”