doug hardy / ctnewsjunkie
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., 2018 (doug hardy / ctnewsjunkie)

The mass shooting at a high school in Florida has renewed calls for government action against gun violence and once again put a spotlight on families who lost children five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Two of them — Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden — were at the White House this week participating in a “listening session” that President Donald Trump held to learn from those who have lived through such tragedies.

Barden’s son, Daniel, was 7-years-old and in first grade when he was killed in Newtown, focused on Trump’s idea to arm teachers and other school staff to protect students.

Here’s what he told the president:

My heart absolutely breaks for the families of Parkland. I have a sense of what you’re going through now. I have been going through it for five years. This is my son Daniel. He was seven years old when he was shot to death in his first-grade classroom in Sandy Hook Elementary School just a little over five years ago.

My wife, Jackie, could not be here today because she’s a schoolteacher and she takes that job seriously, and sent me as the ambassador. Jackie is a career educator and she will tell you — she has spent over a decade in the Bronx — and she will tell you that schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life. (Applause.) Thank you.

Nobody wants to see a shootout in a school and a deranged sociopath on his way to commit an act of murder in a school with the outcome — knowing the outcome is going to be suicide, he’s not going to care if there’s somebody there with a gun. That’s their plan anyway.

I am going to build on what my friend and colleague, Nicole Hockley, said. We tried this legislative approach. I’ve been in this building before, many times, wringing our hands, pleading with legislators, “What can we do?” Until we finally said, well, we have to go home and do this ourselves.

And we built something. Sandy Hook Promise has built something that works. We train students and we train teachers and we train educators with the tools, how to recognize these people, and with the tools of how to intervene, and with the tools to get them to the help that they need before they pick up a gun or any other weapon and commit a horrible tragedy. It works. We don’t charge for it. We’re not asking for money.

We’ve already stopped school shootings. We’ve already prevented suicides. We’ve already captured other social issues like bullying and cutting. We know that it works. We have a solution right here. We’re asking for you to please help. We need to do this nationally, now.

Hockley’s son, Dylan, was six years old when he was killed at Sandy Hook. She focused on Trump’s focus on mental health.

Here’s what she told the president:

One point on the mental health issue — and I think it’s important to note that someone with a mental illness is highly unlikely to ever commit an act of violence. It’s a very, very small percentage.

What we’re really dealing here is more of the lack of mental wellness. This is around anger and fear. And that’s not something that you can diagnose and put in mental health hospitals. This is more about funding for mental health services to help these individuals that are at risk, especially when we think about suicide, teen suicide. Suicide is the number two killer of our children as I understand right now. And a lot of these suicides are performed with firearms, which makes them unsaveable.

So the idea of mental health and being able to identify who’s at risk, who’s considering these issues, who’s going into crisis, that is incredibly important.

I appreciate the point on arming teachers. It’s not, personally, something that I support. Rather than arm them with a firearm, I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place. How do you identify the kids in your class that are most at risk?  And then, most importantly within a school, how do we have a safety assessment program so that schools know how to deal with all these threats; have established protocols to deal with them, and get underneath the surface of what’s going on in that child’s life; find out why they’re on this pathway behavior and intervene?

This is about prevention. There are some fabulous solutions being talked about today, which still go to imminent danger. Let’s talk about prevention. There is so much that we can do to help people before it reaches that point. And I urge you, please, stay focused on that as well. It is the gun, it’s the person behind the gun, and it’s about helping people before they ever reach that point.

Delegation Opposes Trump’s Off-Shore Drilling Plan

Connecticut’s D.C. delegation this week filed a public statement opposing a Department of Interior proposal to expand off-shore oil and gas drilling in the North Atlantic.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last year his intention to make over 90 percent of the National Outer Continental Shelf available to consider for future exploration and development, including potentially leasing two sites in the North Atlantic.

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” he said.

Zinke laid out the proposal in more detail in January, triggering a lengthy and robust public comment period, which remains open through March 9.

“Opening waters off the coast of Connecticut to drilling puts jobs, coastal communities, and our environment at risk, and is antithetical to Connecticut’s efforts to transition to a sustainable, clean energy future,” the delegation wrote.

Connecticut’s economy relies heavily on the Atlantic Ocean for sustainable seafood, jobs, and recreation. In 2016, New England’s coastline generated 4.8 million jobs and $726.8 billion in economic output that would be jeopardized by this program. Specifically, Connecticut’s seafood industry alone has accounted for nearly 3,000 jobs in recent years, the delegation wrote.

They want the Interior Department to remove the Atlantic region from the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-24. Signing the letter were: Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Representatives John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Elizabeth Esty.

Public comments can be submitted here.

Second Republican Challenger for Esty

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who has a re-election war chest of $1.3 million, received her second Republican challenger this week in the 5th Congressional District. Former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos announced he was challenging the two-term incumbent Thursday at Danbury Town Hall.

“I am running for the United States Congress because Connecticut needs representation in Washington that can work with the current administration to solve the real issues that plague our country,” Santos said. “I know what’s at stake. Our education system lags other industrialized nations, our transportation infrastructure has been ignored, our military needs [to be] modernized, our healthcare costs continue to climb, illegal immigration continues to be used to divide us, and most importantly across the country our cities are deteriorating and Washington seems unable to help.”

Craig Diangelo of New Britain has also filed paperwork for the Republican nomination.

Blumenthal Pushes Nursing Home Safety Rules

Senator Richard Blumenthal this week called on the Trump administration to reverse its plans to scale back federal fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury.

“It is abundantly clear that when health or safety is compromised, when errors occur, or in the worst cases, when patients are harmed, there must be a wide range of strong enforcement actions available to ensure that these adverse events are not repeated, precious federal dollars are not wasted, and most importantly, lives are not lost,” wrote a dozen Senate Democrats in a letter spearheaded by Blumenthal.

The letter, sent to the heads of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, urges the restoration of rules designed to enforce nursing home health and safety standards.

Blumenthal teamed up with Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota on the letter. Office of Inspector General report that found during a Medicare-covered stay, nearly a third of nursing home patients experienced an adverse event or an incident that led to temporary harm.

Manafort Faces New Charges

New Britain native Paul Manafort and his former deputy were indicted on new charges this week as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, according to Bloomberg News.

Manafort, former campaign chairman for Trump, and his former deputy, Rick Gates, face new charges of tax evasion and bank fraud — adding to an October indictment of laundering millions of dollars earned while acting unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government.

Keeping Score

The House and Senate were not in session this week, so no roll call votes were cast.


RALLY & LOBBY DAY FOR PUERTO RICAN FAMILIES hosted by the CT Puerto Rican Agenda and Make the Road CT to show support for Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the State Capitol. More information



LATINX* SERVICES COORDINATOR – CT Alliance To End Sexual Violence

POLICY & ADVOCACY COORDINATOR – CT Alliance To End Sexual Violence

Christine Stuart contributed to this report