Monday, January 28, 2013

What Do The Families Of The Newtown Massacre Have To Say About Gun Regulation?

There have been strong opinions on both sides of the gun violence issue since the horrifying massacre of school children in Newtown. 

But what do the parents and families in Newtown think?

Recently, I was reading a post at the Mikeb302000 blog about the NRA's shameful attack ad that targeted the President's kids, and left a comment there.  That's when a pro-gun extremist there challenged my opinion by writing (with the usual tactfulness):

Why don't you go to Newtown and tell the parents of those killed there what you think. Dumb ass.

Apparently he doesn't read the news.  You see, the parents of those children, and others in the Newtown community, have spoken out in favor of stronger gun regulation.


-->  Monday, there was a legislative hearing on gun violence at the Connecticut capitol building in Hartford.  Doing everything possible to stall any meaningful conversation, as usual, the gun guys actually heckled the parents of the dead children as they delivered their testimony.

Let me repeat:  they heckled the parents of the dead children (just as they have harassed another hero of the massacre who gave shelter to some of the child survivors).

Here is video of the heckling.

Neil Heslin, father of slain Sandy Hook
student Jesse Lewis, testifying as he's heckled.
In fact, there were parents of three different kids who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, all of whom delivered testimony in favor of stricter gun regulation in Connecticut.

"The Second Amendment!" was shouted by several gun enthusiasts in the meeting room as Neil Heslin, holding a photo of his 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, asked why Bushmaster assault-style weapons are allowed to be sold in the state. 
"There are a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened," said Heslin, who grew up using guns and seemed undisturbed by the interruption of his testimony. 
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, co-chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group, threatened to empty the meeting room in the Legislative Office Building -- jammed with hundreds of people -- if the outbursts and chatter from the audience continued. 
"That wasn't just a killing, it was a massacre," said Heslin, who recalled dropping off his son at Sandy Hook Elementary School shortly before Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults. "I just hope some good can come out of this." 
Another father of a 6-year-old boy murdered in the shootings fought back tears as he told lawmakers to make any changes in gun laws simple. 
"I don't believe it's so complex," said Mark Mattioli, whose son, James, was among the first-graders slaughtered on Dec.14. 
"We need civility across our nation," said Mattioli, who appeared with his wife, Cindy, before the legislative panel. "The problem is not gun laws. It's a lack of civility." 
Veronique Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed in the massacre, said his grave is only a five-minute drive from Chalk Hill School in Monroe. 
Pozner said her two other children, both Sandy Hook School students, are haunted by their brother's death, especially his twin sister. 
"It is our feeling that assault weapons should be comprehensively banned in the state of Connecticut," she said. "Faster weapons equal more fatalities."

Also in that hearing, the state chiefs of police said they supported mandatory background checks, and a state, and during the news conferences the state teacher's union said 85% of their members opposed arming teachers.

Here is video of Neil Heslin testifying, though it does not include the heckling in it:

and here is a link to a little video and description of Heslin's son, Jesse Lewis.

--> Last Saturday, thousands marched in D.C. for support of gun control measures.  Marching along with them were many residents of Newtown, including parents and pastors.

Marchers in Washington, D.C., along with Newtown residents

-->  The parents of one of the slain children in Newtown, Chase Kowalski created a fund in their son's name, which will be used to foster gun control, after his mother had a vision of her son visiting her (bolding added):

Becky takes a deep breath on Wednesday in the funeral home and says, “Okay, the best day of my life started on Sunday morning when my son came to me in a vision. He came to tell me to explain to my husband that the scope of this event was so large and that there were so many people around the country and the world we were touching. I felt that my son was here in this vision to tell me that the not-for-profit scholarship organization that we are starting in Chase’s honor will save lives, change building codes, demand gun and ammunition control, and that in Chase’s name I would like to bring God back to America. These are the first starting goals of the organization.”
--> The parents of Noah Pozner, a child slain at Sandy Hook, has been in communication with the White House and has made recommendations in support of stronger gun reforms:
Pozner's family has submitted a detailed proposal to a White House task force, recommending a range of legal reforms including federal grants to review security at public schools and requiring gun owners to lock weapons if mentally ill or dangerous people could access them otherwise. 
Pozner also says it's not right that the law protects the release of any mental health information on the gunman. She says she plans to challenge that because it could shed light. 
"Those are all answers that I feel that we're entitled to," she says. 
The family also is suggesting a new law requiring people to notify police within 24 hours if they know about an imminent threat of harm or death made by a person who has access to guns or explosive devices.

--> The police chief of Newtown has called for a ban on assault rifles, high-capacity ammo magazines, and better background checks:
The police chief of Newtown, Conn., the site of the Sandy Hook school massacre, urged the White House to ban assault rifles, saying he was "sickened" by the unimaginable horror that has rocked his quiet family community.   
“Ban assault weapons, restrict those magazines that have so many bullets in them, shore up any loopholes in our criminal background checks,” Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe told NBC News, when asked what his message to President Obama would be. ...

“We do a good job of securing dynamite in our society," Kehoe said. "(Assault rifles) are another form of dynamite...I think they should ban them.”
Remember, Newtown is also the home of the National Shooting Sports Federation, which aggressively markets assault rifles, rebranding them as "modern sport rifles" and marketing them as no different than hunting rifles.

Newtown school superintendent Dr. Janet Robinson
testifying for help in reducing gun violence
-->  The superintendent of the Newtown school district calls for help in protecting her students "without creating fortresses."

What do I say to the parents who want to be assured that when they put their children on the bus to school that they will come home.  How do I protect our students without creating fortresses. 

-->  A congressman who represents Newtown, reacted badly to the NRA's "guns-in-school" suggestion:

Democratic congressman and senator-elect Chris Murphy, whose congressional district includes Newtown, tweeted a sharp reaction from Connecticut after the group's comments: "Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen."

“How dare they?” fumed Elizabeth Murphy, 42, who lives in [Newtown]. “We are all still grieving. This is the wrong time to discuss their goal of putting more guns on the street . . . The bodies haven’t even all been buried yet.”

-->  And another resident:
Lee Shull a Newtown resident: “I don’t think it’s reasonable for assault weapons in any way in our society -except for military or police”.

Newtown resident David Stout, 49,an energy consultant and hunter, said he had hoped to hear an honest announcement from the NRA regarding background checks on all gun sales or closing other loopholes – not putting more armed guards in schools.
"Folks in Newtown are appalled by that suggestion," said Stout, who owns several hunting rifles. "I understand we want to protect our kids, but there are other ways to do that. We don't want to turn our schools into prisons." ....
"It's ridiculous we can't all come together and say, 'Ok, what makes sense?'" Stout said. "Something has to change."
He added: "More guns is not the solution."
Martin Blanco, 49, a stay-at-home Newtown dad, said the NRA missed a real opportunity to endear residents of Newtown and across the USA with sensible recommendations on gun legislation. Instead, he called their suggestion of putting armed guards in schools "madness."
"Just an awful slap in the face, particularly to the people in Sandy Hook," he said.
"The overwhelming majority of people in this town will find it a foolish, self-serving statement that has no place in Newtown or the United States of America," he said.
Craig Mittleman, 50, a Newtown emergency physician, said he wasn't surprised by the NRA's position but was nonetheless appalled by the brazenness of the comments, especially coming just a week after the incident. 
"Completely ludicrous," Mittleman said of LaPierre's suggestion of placing armed guards in schools. "It is an insensitive response at a time like this when there are families I know and have a connection with who have just sustained the greatest loss any human being can ever encounter."
Like others in Newtown, Mittleman said he had hoped to hear a more conciliatory tone from LaPierre and a sign that the gun lobby would cooperate with Congress to improve gun laws, not arm more Americans.
"I think even the most ardent gun owners in town are going to see the shame in that comment," he said.

-->  A number of the grieving parents and other residents have formed a group called Sandy Hook Promise:  Their promise:

I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence
They have not come out in support or opposition to any one particular policy yet, but they have released a statement in support of the President's plan.

As usual, the victims and families of victims of gun violence overwhelmingly come out in favor of stronger gun reform.  Once you've held a dead or dying child in your arms, guns lose their false symbolism of freedom and justice and become exactly what they were intended to be -- a killing machine -- which has once again fallen into the wrong hands.  It's time to listen to the families of Newtown and support stronger gun reforms to make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

UPDATE (1/31/13):  Today, the father, David Wheeler, of another Sandy Hook child victim, Ben Wheeler,  gave testimony in favor of stronger regulation of guns.  

Speaking in front of a 52-member task force, Wheeler decried the inability of agencies to share relevant information about at-risk individuals’ personal histories, mental states, and proximity to firearms. He also advocated a ban on military-style assault weapons, saying they “belong in an armory under lock and key,” and for annual registration of personal firearms. 
Finally, Wheeler invoked Thomas Jefferson’s inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from the Declaration of Independence. “I do not think the composition of that foundational phrase was an accident,” he said. “I do not think the order of those important words was haphazard or casual. The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine and keep them in their home is second to the right of my son to his life.”

Here is video:

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UPDATE (2/10/13):  See a compilation of very moving testimony by a number of Sandy Hook parents and other community members who dealt with the shooting, here, all of whom are supportive of changes to our gun regulation system to keep this from happening again:


ADDENDUM (2/14/13):  From an article: "Mother of Sandy Hook Victim Noah Pozner Targets Gun Violence":
Veronique Pozner: "This is not about the right to bear arms. It is about the right to bear weapons with the capacity for mass destruction. We’re talking about a 223 caliber that is designed to penetrate a steel helmet on a battlefield, that was modified for that purpose, or to take down a 250, 200 pound deer, going into 40 pound children. You know, do these weapons have a place in our society? I say they don’t. Who am I? Well not anyone other than a mother who lost a child."
ADDENDUM (3/13/13):  An organization and website has been started by parents of slain Sandy Hook victims and others in Newtown, to support stronger gun legislation.  They are called "Newtown Action Alliance." From their "About" page:

NewtownAction is an action-based grassroots organization founded by Newtown residents in the weeks after December 14, 2012. 
We are dedicated to reversing the escalating gun violence epidemic in this nation through the introduction of smarter, safer gun laws and broader cultural change.
Our membership is open to anyone who wants to help make this nation a safer place for our families and children. 
Our immediate goals: 
Support state legislators as they work to pass smarter, safer gun laws. 
Support federal lawmakers as they work to pass smarter, safer gun laws. 
Work together with other gun safety organizations towards safer schools, streets, towns, and cities.
UPDATE (3/28/13):  See here for a video, where some family members of the victims speak out for stronger gun regulation: