Connecticut Against Gun Violence and March for Change rally on Feb. 14, 2022 Credit: Katie Cerulle

HARTFORD – Gun violence survivors and gun violence prevention advocates gathered at the state Capitol Monday to call on the state to create and fund an Office for Gun Violence Prevention. 

The date held significance. 

Valentine’s Day marks the anniversary of the historic 2013 March For Change where over 5,000 Connecticut residents gathered to demand stronger gun laws from the state. February 14th is also the anniversary of the 2018 Parkland School shooting. 

Janet Rice was one of the mothers who spoke at the rally. She told the audience that her only son, Shane Oliver, died due to gun violence nine years ago, just minutes from their family home. Her son got into a verbal altercation, and within seven minutes, he was being rushed to Hartford Hospital in critical condition. 

“All these victims were doing ordinary, basic things, and lost their lives while doing just that,” she said.

She continued to call on state representatives and legislators to take action in order to prevent the loss of innocent lives.

“It is time to prioritize the issues of community gun violence by establishing an Office of Gun Violence Prevention,” she concluded. 

Jeremy Stein, executive director at CAGV, noted that the crisis of gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color. 

“Young black men in Connecticut are 39 times more likely than young white men to be slain with a gun,” he said. “We have ample resources to do it and no longer can we make the excuse that there is not enough money to it.”

Gov. Ned Lamont made several proposals this year to deal with guns. 

One change would broaden the ban to include otherwise-covered weapons purchased with an arm brace rather than stock. Another would remove an exemption for weapons manufactured before 1993. If passed, both changes would allow a period for people who already own impacted guns to register them with the state.

The administration is also seeking a change to the state’s open-carry law, which currently prevents police officers from asking for the permits of residents openly carrying firearms in public. The proposal would allow law enforcement to request the permits of people bringing weapons to polling places, public buildings and transit, as well as protests and demonstrations. 

On Monday the legislature’s Public Health Committee raised the concept of creating an Office of Gun Violence Prevention and another that would classify it as a public health crisis. 

There’s been few changes to gun laws at the national level since 2013. 

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that the President of the United States has put $5 billion dollars into gun violence prevention, but that funding is only the beginning. 

“We know that organizations throughout the state can reach young people before they commit gun violence,” he said, “we should be investing in them, supporting them, and urging and inspiring them to do the work in enlisting young people into this cause”

“This shows that communities can come together to stop gun violence,” he said.

U.S. Representative John Larson said that the House of Representatives has passed three bills that are currently awaiting action in the Senate.