HARTFORD, CT — After two horrific mass shootings over the weekend in Texas and Ohio, Connecticut politicians held a rally with 250 supporters at the state Capitol Monday to urge U.S. Senate to vote on tougher gun laws.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson were joined by Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General William Tong, and other politicians and advocates for stronger gun laws at the rally.
Much of the dialogue of the rally was centered on two themes: praise for Connecticut for having some of the toughest gun laws in the country; and, criticism for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not calling any gun violence prevention measures that have already passed the House.
Referring to the fact that the Senate is in recess, Blumenthal said McConnell should, “call us back today,” to loud cheers from the crowd, many of whom were carrying signs referring to McConnell as “Moscow Mitch.”
“Lead or get out of the way,” Blumenthal said referring to McConnell. Blumenthal added that McConnell needs to realize “that gun violence prevention will be on the ballot in 2020. If you are on the wrong side of the issue you are going down.”
Larson also took aim at McConnell. “Do something!” Larson said.
Monday’s rally came after another violent weekend in the United States. Over less than 13 hours and nearly 1,600 miles apart, two mass shootings left at least 31 dead and 52 injured, leaving the country reeling from yet more gruesome scenes of violence and death.
On Saturday morning, a gunman opened fire into a crowd at an El Paso, Texas, retail area that is popular among both local residents and shoppers from just across the southern border with Mexico.
Then early Sunday, a shooter attacked a crowd outside a popular bar in Dayton, Ohio, as patrons were enjoying a night out.
One suspect was in custody in the El Paso case. Federal prosecutors were treating it as domestic terrorism.
In Dayton, responding officers killed the gunman, police said.
Both attacks follow a week in which Gilroy, California; Brooklyn, New York; and Philadelphia were each struck by gun violence.
President Donald Trump Monday morning called the weekend shooting attacks “domestic terrorism,” adding that he’s called on the FBI to devote resources to prevent further attacks.
He identified the internet and social media as areas for reform.
“We have asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism,” Trump said. “Whatever they need. We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalized disturbed minds and perform demented acts.”
“We must shine a light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murderers before they start,” Trump said.
He continued: “This includes the gruesome and grizzly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately,” Trump said.
At Monday’s rally in Hartford, however, Tong placed part of the blame for the rash of mass shootings on Trump himself.
“Stop the hate, and the division, and the cruelty,” Tong said. “When someone at one of your rallies says ‘shoot them all’ stop it,” Tong said referring to Trump.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, too, had problems with Trump now trying to play the role of reconciler in the aftermath of the shootings.
“Look in the mirror,” Bronin said at the rally, referring to Trump, stating if Trump did: “You will see the hater in chief.”
Back in Washington, meanwhile, Blumenthal and other Democrats have called on McConnell to reconvene the upper chamber to vote on House legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers in the wake of the deadline shootings.
Many speakers at the rally in Hartford Monday, including Gov. Ned Lamont noted that while Connecticut has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, it doesn’t really matter because, Lamont noted, “guns travel across state borders.”
“Connecticut is a leader when it comes to gun safety laws,” Lamont said, “but we need Washington to follow.”
In Connecticut, in the recently concluded General Assembly session, three laws were passed that gun control advocates believe will make the state safer.
One requires owners of pistols and revolvers to safely store their weapons somewhere inside the car any time they leave their gun in an unattended vehicle. Tougher laws in this area might serve as a deterrent to weapons being stolen from vehicles, proponents claim.
Also passed was “Ethan’s Law” — which requires all firearms, loaded and unloaded, to be safely stored in homes occupied by minors under 18 years of age. The bill was prompted when a 15-year-old Guilford teen accidentally shot himself with a gun that was housed at a neighbor’s home.
The bill allows prosecutors to criminally charge the owner of a gun that isn’t properly stored.
Connecticut’s previous safe storage law only required that loaded firearms be properly stored “if a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the youth.
The legislature also passed a bill that would ban so-called “ghost guns,” which are essentially homemade firearms.
For those pushing gun safety laws, “ghost guns” are particularly dangerous since there is no inspection process and the weapons don’t have a serial number. They also aren’t recorded as a gun sale, making them impossible to trace if the firearm is used in a crime, lawmakers claim.
Those who support the Second Amendment pushed back.
“Once again we have mass shootings in public locations followed up with statements by lawmakers who would use any reason to nullify Second Amendment rights,” said Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson.
“There are literally thousands of laws on the books in all 50 states, yet lawmakers like Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal keep telling us that more gun control will somehow be a magical solution,” Wilson added. “The only thing that would result from their proposals are more infringements on constitutional rights.”