NEW BRITAIN - As the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings approaches, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty joined advocates of gun-violence prevention at YWCA New Britain Monday for a “Day of Kindness.”
The day kicked off this year’s Week of Kindness, a statewide observance of the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings that promotes acts of kindness in the community.
Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the attack at the Newtown school that left 20 children and six adult staff dead.
“Today we’re talking about honoring with action - about honoring those lives and lives of the 170,000 Americans who have been killed by gun violence in the last five years,” Esty said.
Blumenthal said the pain from the tragedy five years ago lingers.
“What is the right response for us, today? Grief, sympathy, love, hope, peace,” Blumenthal said, reciting the words imprinted on a bracelet he received after the Sandy Hook shootings.
“The words have long since disappeared from this bracelet, but grief goes on.”
The legislators were joined by Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, and Helen Brickfield, board member of the Newtown Action Alliance, who spoke about the current state of gun laws in the country.
“This problem with gun violence is a particularly American problem,” Pinciaro said, criticizing the sentiment that the country has a mental health problem rather than a gun violence problem.
Pinciaro said that Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and the federal government should use the state as an example of effective gun legislation.
“Smart gun laws work. Smart gun laws save lives,” Pinciaro said.
Brickfield, whose organization was formed just a few days after the Sandy Hook shootings, said the group holds vigils for victims of gun violence throughout the year and hopes to end gun violence through legislation and local outreach.
“Our goal is to honor with action - by raising our voice,” Brickfield said.
Blumenthal implored his colleagues in Congress to pass legislation preventing gun violence.
We should do acts of kindness, but the greatest act of kindness would be for Congress to act and adopt common sense measures against gun violence,” Blumenthal said. “The greatest act of kindness would be to kill the concealed-carry bill that will simply enable more gun violence and to adopt a measure to improve the background check system that will stop dangerous people from buying guns.”
Messages like this have been echoed by Connecticut’s representatives for years, but Esty and Blumenthal said they think they are making ground.
“I think the NRA’s vise-like grip is breaking,” Blumenthal said of one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups. “A vast majority of Americans want something done.”
The two representatives said that legislators who are against strengthening firearm regulations will feel the will of the residents they represent during elections. Esty pointed to the election of Democrat Chris Hurst in Virginia as an example of voters supporting candidates who fight for stricter gun regulations.
Hurst, a former television news anchor whose wife was shot and killed in 2015, won a seat to Virginia’s House of Delegates in November.
“Virginia is the home of the NRA and he won. He won against an NRA-backed opponent,” Esty said. “If an NRA-backed opponent loses in the backyard of the NRA, that tells you something.”
Following the press conference, Esty and Blumenthal read books to preschoolers at the YWCA to spread a message of kindness to the youth.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.