Connecticut officials and gun control advocates gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday to demand federal action in the wake of a deadly school shooting in Texas with tragic echoes of the Sandy Hook shooting nearly a decade ago.
The Tuesday attack in Uvalde Texas left 19 children and two elementary school teachers dead and has prompted a renewed conversation on the nation’s gun safety policies. The trauma feels especially familiar for some in Connecticut, where a gunman murdered 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
A survivor of that incident was among the activists and elected officials to call on Congress to take action on gun violence during Wednesday’s press conference. Mary Ann Jacob was working in Sandy Hook Elementary School’s library on that terrible day in 2012.
“I was huddled in a closet with 18 nine-year-olds and three of my colleagues that day when gunfire shattered the peace at Sandy Hook School. Yesterday, I was right back in that closet,” Jacob said, “remembering the fear and horror we experienced, trying to be brave for the kids we were with while we were more frightened than we had ever been in our lives.”
Jacob and others questioned what it would take for Congress to adopt tighter gun regulations if the U.S. Senate had declined to act after Sandy Hook and subsequent mass shootings.
In the months following the incident in Newtown, Connecticut’s legislature passed a bipartisan bill, which included bans on certain gun models and high capacity magazines. Connecticut also requires background checks for all gun purchases. However, during Wednesday’s event, Gov. Ned Lamont said Connecticut could not solve the problem alone.
“It doesn’t work if we’re doing this on our own,” Lamont said. “We can make a difference, but we really need the federal government to look up and see what’s worked in Connecticut and what could work elsewhere.”
U.S. Rep. John Larson shouted from the podium and scolded the U.S. Senate for refusing to take “more than 400 bills” on the issue which had previously been approved by the House.
“We are not asking for anything complicated here. All we’re asking is that the legislation that passes the House be taken up in the United States Senate,” Larson said.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy made a similar appeal during an emotional speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Po Murray, co-founder of the Newtown Action Alliance, told reporters she believed the Senate was close to taking action if it could overcome the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to pass most bills.
“We’re close. We’re at the 10-yard line,” Murray said. “We elected a gun safety president, we elected a gun safety House of Representatives and we have a narrow majority in the Senate. All we need is to elect two more senators willing to end the filibuster.”
Many of the Connecticut officials who spoke Wednesday seemed to have little patience for the Senate and its filibuster rules.
“Every day that goes by without passing common sense gun legislation is another day of lives lost and I’m sorry, but none of us want to hear condolences from NRA-supported senators,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.
Following the event, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski issued a statement in which he expressed support for Connecticut’s gun laws and suggested more should be done on the national level.
“Connecticut has the strongest gun laws in the entire country and that’s the way they should stay,” Stefanowski said. “But I will also use my platform as Governor to urge federal action in Congress on comprehensive solutions that protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, while strengthening federal laws that prevent those who pose a risk to themselves and others from getting their hands on a gun. It’s time to put politics aside and start working together both as a nation and as a state to prevent these horrific experiences from happening again.”
The statement marks a departure for the Madison Republican who received an endorsement from the NRA when he ran against Lamont in 2018 but generally avoided discussing gun policy.
During the press conference, Lamont said he had no immediate plans to call for a special session of the state legislature to take further action on the issue. This year, Lamont proposed a policy that would have required anyone with a home manufactured “ghost gun” with no serial number to register the weapon with the state. The proposal failed to gain traction with lawmakers.
“I gotta see if something has changed. I pushed pretty hard on the ghost guns in particular and illegal guns. I couldn’t get that through,” Lamont said. “Maybe the world has changed. Let me talk to a couple of the legislators.”