Having lost his own son to gun violence just three months before the shooting in Newtown, the Rev. Samuel Saylor said he was sick of hearing about Newtown.
“Newtown this. Newtown that,” Saylor said. “I don’t want to hear about it.”
Why didn’t anyone want to know about his son, Shane Oliver, who was shot in Hartford in late October? To Saylor, it felt like Oliver and those killed in urban centers with guns were somehow “footnotes” in the current discussion on gun control.
Then he attended the Feb. 21 conference in Danbury with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and was seated next to the father of one of the Newtown victims.
“When I was sitting next to him he was crying. He cried like I cry. His tears were wet, like my tears. They were full of pain, like my tears were full of pain. He raged, like I raged,” Saylor told the crowd of 300 who gathered for the rally Saturday.
“I’ll be darned if I let anger, or publicity, all of the publicity from Newtown, separate me from that father and his needs. I realized I am Newtown. We are all Newtown,” Saylor said as the crowd cheered.
Listen to Saylor’s remarks from the rally below:
Newtown now understands the fear of city dwellers whose children have to “circumnavigate the streets” and pray they don’t get shot on a daily basis.
“We need a Newtown to make it safe for our children to go to school,” Saylor said.
But gun violence can happen anywhere. Just ask Stephen Barton.
“We just chose the wrong theater, at the wrong time, in the wrong city in Colorado,” Barton, who was shot in Aurora, Colo. last July, said.
A Southbury native, Barton was hit with with 25 shotgun pellets at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Barton apologized to the crowd for not caring about the issue of gun violence before the incident.
“But I want you to look around and realize times have changed,” Barton said. “You’re not the only voice in this fight anymore.”
He said Connecticut and the nation have the best opportunity in perhaps 20 years “to get laws on the books that will save lives.”
Changes to those laws may come as early as next week when the Connecticut General Assembly meets to tackle gun control measures.
What is or isn’t in that legislation may ultimately be decided on Monday when rank-and-file lawmakers gather behind closed doors to talk privately about what they believe should be part of the proposal.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy didn’t offer any insight into exactly what that package includes, but he said “I think we should be banning the ownership of high-capacity magazines.”
A ban on high-capacity magazines, which expired with the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, has been an issue for legislative leaders who have been attempting to negotiate a bipartisan package for weeks. The inclusion of such a ban in a final draft of the bill may depend on how many lawmakers are willing to vote in favor it when a headcount is taken on Monday.
Two days after parts of five search warrants in the Newtown shooting were opened, Malloy said he believes lives would have been spared that day if the gunman only had 10 bullet magazines.
“What he brought to that school that day were magazines. Ten of them that carried 30 bullets — over 154 shots fired in less than five minutes,” Malloy told the crowd. “It makes no sense to have those magazines legally owned in the state of Connecticut any longer.”
But assault weapons with high-capacity magazines are not the main problem in urban areas where handgun deaths seem to dominate the statistics.
“We’ve got to do something in our urban environments to stop the flow of blood in our streets,” Malloy said. “There are a lot of things connected here. Inability to educate our children, lack of employment opportunities and hope, and the proliferation of guns all come together particularly in an urban environment to create the death and carnage that we’re here today to talk about and stand witness to.”
In 2011, there were 129 homicides in Connecticut. And of those, 94 happened in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, Malloy said.