President Barack Obama's landmark proposals to reduce gun violence echoed loudly through the state whose tragedy prompted them: Connecticut citizens and political leaders reacted mostly with praise, although gun owners said that the measures would unjustly restrict their rights.
Responding to the Dec. 14 Newtown massacre, Obama on Wednesday announced a $500 million plan that would include a federal ban on assault weapons, background checks for all firearms sales, and increased security and mental health counselors at schools.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that "the president took the critical first step" toward answering the question: "How do we make sure this never happens again?"
"The common sense measures he proposed today are something that we should all be able to agree on, and I want to commend him and the vice president for their work on this issue," Malloy said in a written statement. "I have no doubt that, state by state, we will deal with the issue of gun violence."
However, he said, "We need leadership at the federal level, and for the first time in a long time, we have it."
All seven of Connecticut's members of Congress — its two senators and five House members — issued statements of support.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that "this profoundly historic initiative puts the full moral and political weight of the presidency behind strong and specific measures to reduce gun violence. It is presidential leadership at its best and boldest."
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., issued a formal statement as well but also summarized his feelings on Twitter: "Strong recommendations from the WH. If horror of Sandy Hook doesn't move Congress to act on common sense gun laws, I have no idea what will."
U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, blasted the National Rifle Association for a new 30-second ad that refers to the Obamas' two daughters. The NRA ad calls Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for not supporting its proposal for armed guards in all schools, while his daughters enjoy such protection at their schools.
Larson said that the NRA "has reached a new low and should take down this ad immediately. I think most NRA members, like most Americans, would agree that using the president's children as the topic in an ad attacking our administration is abhorrent. The NRA should be ashamed of themselves for continually promoting a culture of fear, where people are assured the only way to be safe is to arm themselves."
Newtown First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra was in Washington for the Obama announcement. She noted recent statements "that our world has changed because of what happened at Sandy Hook school, that our consciousness has been raised, that we have a culture of violence that we have an obligation to address."
"If that is so, then change will take place," Llodra said. "I would hate to find myself a year or two or three from now reading about another event, when we have fallen back to that sense, that lethargy, that we can't do anything because we don't have the will."
Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said that Obama's commitment to helping schools that want "school resource officers" is "very helpful. … Districts across the state and across the country are really looking intensely at school security, and very often having a trained police officer in the schools would seem to be an excellent method of helping to increase safety."
Rader said he supports increasing mental health resources "so that people who are disturbed actually get the help that they need."
Kate Mattias, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said that Obama's recommendations "were really well thought-out, reasonable and broad in scope. … We're happy to see there was consideration given to children who may be showing signs of early-onset" mental health issues, she said.
The National Rifle Association maintains that increased government spending on mental health care is a better way to prevent mass shootings than gun control.
That opinion was echoed by Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, when he talked about gun-control initiatives proposed Wednesday at the state level by the Council of Municipalities. Those proposals were similar to Obama's in advocating an expanded assault-weapons ban and prohibiting high-capacity ammunition magazines. Newtown killer Adam Lanza used such magazines — containing 30 rounds — in his Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
"The problem is mental health and school security, not guns," Crook said. "The guy who had the gun, he broke, I don't know, 14, 15 laws. So he's a criminal. So why are they trying to penalize the legitimate citizen in a state that has the fifth-best rated gun laws in the nation — and impact on hunters, target shooters, [and] self-protection advocates?"
Crook said that hunters don't need high-capacity magazines but that "target shooters do."
"Most of the target shooters in the United States are now using ARs [AR-15 style rifles]," Crook said.
He said that if high-capacity magazines were banned, "what these guys are going to do … is what we did in Vietnam — tape two or three of them together. ... All you've got to do is push the button, drop it out, turn it upside-down, [and] stick it in," and resume shooting.Copyright © 2015, CT Now