HARTFORD, CT — Led by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, 1,500 gun owners and Second Amendment supporters rallied Saturday at the state Capitol.
The rally comes less than three weeks after about 10,000 marched in the same location to demand Connecticut toughen its already strict gun laws. Specifically, HB 5542 would ban bump stocks and other devices designed to increase the rate of fire, and HB 5540 would ban so-called “ghost guns,” which are essentially do-it-yourself assembled firearms that are functional and don’t have a serial number.
“Everytime there is a horrific murder opportunistic politicians run to the microphones and cameras,” Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson said. And their remarks often “point in our direction.”
He said those politicians “foment hostility and pit citizens against citizens by ratcheting up their poison rhetoric.”
He said he would like to say they are winning the battle against gun control — the CCDL reports that it has 30,000 members — but he said he can only report the truth about the ongoing legislative battles.
Second Amendment supporters struggled against legislation to place stricter regulations on guns in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting. They were able to get the state to grandfather certain firearms, but under a law passed in response to the school shooting no new assault rifles, such as the AR-15 style of weapons, can legally be purchased in Connecticut.
“As our rights decline and are watered-down future generations will surely lose any notion of what it is to be an American,” Wilson said.
He urged the crowd to protect their rights for themselves and future generations.
The last Second Amendment rally was held in 2014.
Holly Sullivan, another CCDL executive board member, said she doesn’t love her child any less because she supports the Second Amendment.
She said she wants her child to be left with the “same, intact Bill of Rights that American generations before her depended on to secure their freedoms.”
She said they can’t give lawmakers an inch on banning certain accessories because they will take a mile.
“We as gun owners did our part in 2013,” Sullivan said. “We cannot stand for more miles of ours being taken while they are still measuring their obligations in inches.”
But the group faces an uphill battle in Connecticut stricter gun laws had bipartisan support in 2013.
“Our Second Amendment is possibly the most important piece of the United States Constitution,” Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said. “It is what defines us as free citizens.”
As citizens, Sampson said, “we are in charge and the government is responsible to us.”
He said they have an opportunity to change the makeup of the General Assembly this year by electing more pro-Second Amendment candidates.
Sampson was one of seven state lawmakers, all Republican, who showed up at the rally Saturday. Peter Lumaj was the only gubernatorial candidate spotted and Joe Visconti, who is running for U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, was there too.
Tom Sirard, the former Enfield Board of Education chairman and gun shop owner, said he wakes up and sometimes has to wonder what country he lives in.
He said every time there’s a shooting he has to ask himself, “when’s it coming.”
“Here they come again. How long before they seek to punish those who are the very definition of upstanding and law abiding citizens because it’s becoming a broken record,” Sirard said. “How long before they make me a felon with the stroke of a pen?”
He said he is Navy veteran and served his town on the Board of Education for eight years. He’s also a federally licensed firearm dealer and he’s licensed to carry in Connecticut.
“I passed more background checks than half the people at the higher rungs of government ever will, and I can prove it with my permit and my sales receipts,” Sirard said. “And you dare call me the problem.”
The crowd cheered and started chanting “we are not the problem!”
Sirard challenged the crowd to ask every candidate running for office whether they support the Second Amendment. And, he said, if they don’t then find another candidate run for office yourself.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League made a difference in the Republican primary in 2014 when they endorsed Tom Foley for governor over former Sen. John McKinney, but it didn’t help Foley in the general election where he was beat for a second time by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by more than 28,000 votes.
Like the anti-gun rally, students also played a part of Saturday’s pro-gun gathering.
Ashley Dummit of Farmington and Connor Jarmie of North Branford spoke about what they did at their schools on March 14 when many of the students and faculty felt it was necessary to stop for 17 minutes and reflect on the 17 killed in Parkland, Florida in February.
Dummit said her school planned on having an assembly instead of a walkout and she felt if they were going to do that then she should have the right to speak, too.
“There’s no place in the public education system for partisanship,” Dummit said.
Dummit said she supports the constitution and the Second Amendment and that she succeeded in being able to offer that point of view at the assembly. She said she ended up being the only student to speak at the assembly and about 70 students still chose to walk out of school, instead of attending the assembly.
Jarmie said he was made to feel uncomfortable by the faculty at the school for not participating in the walkout. He said they blocked the hall to the cafeteria and he had to squeeze by three teachers during the March 14 walkout. He said he was joined by four other students.
Below is video of Catherine Mortensen, an NRA spokeswoman, addressing the crowd following an ad that included audio of Malloy’s remarks in March likening the NRA to a terrorist organization.