By JENNY WILSON and RICK GREEN
The Hartford Courant
8:07 PM EST, January 4, 2013
NEWTOWN -- Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, critically wounded in a 2011 shooting rampage in Arizona, met with Sandy Hook Elementary School families Friday afternoon, as a renewed campaign to tighten federal gun laws grew more intense.
Giffords met privately with local leaders and family members of victims killed in the Dec. 14 attack that left 20 children and 6 adults dead at Sandy Hook. As someone who understands perhaps better than anyone the intersection between public policy and personal tragedy, Giffords was welcomed by Connecticut leaders.
"I'm looking forward to working with her on measures to prevent gun violence,'' said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who accompanied Giffords to the closed meetings Friday afternoon along with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.
While Blumenthal is working on such measures in Washington, he is also witnessing the healing process firsthand. Newtown will play a significant role in the discussion about reducing gun violence in America, Blumenthal said.
"I believe that some of that community is ready now, and a lot will be ready in the future," he said. "Not only ready but will be deeply resolved to seek change."
Before coming to Newtown, Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly met Thursday with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has been leading a campaign to pressure Congress and President Obama to push for new restrictions on guns.
Kelly, a retired astronaut, has become an outspoken gun control advocate and the need for immediate legislative action, pointing to the shooting that nearly killed his wife and other more recent attacks, such as Newtown.
"This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence," Kelly wrote on Facebook the day of the Sandy Hook Shooting. "The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws – and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America."
Esty, who was appointed to the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Friday, says that gun control politics have shifted since the Sandy Hook shooting.
"It is different from what we heard in the past and I believe and hope this will be a tipping point in our ability at the national level to move forward on a number of interrelated issues including sensible, enforceable, and enforced gun legislation," said Esty, who spoke from Washington.
"I think there really has been a true change in the sentiment of the public and I think and hope that will be reflected in what has been traditionally Congressional gridlock around the issue," said Esty.
In the Senate, Blumenthal says he—along with Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California—will help spearhead efforts to reduce gun violence.
"We are literally writing legislation over the next couple of weeks with the idea of introducing it very early after the first working day of the session in late January," he said. "There is no question that this fight will require a very sustained fight involving grassroots organizing and support from all of America," said Blumenthal.
On Friday, there were no press briefings or public debates about gun control in Newtown. Giffords met with families and local officials in emotional meetings that were closed to outsiders.
Giffords resigned from her seat representing Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives last January to focus on a full recovery. She held tight to her husband's hand as she left Newtown Municipal Center in the late afternoon.
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