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March for Change: State is mobilizing for rally against gun violence

On Valentine’s Day, more than 2,500 people are expected to rally on the north steps of the state Capitol to support gun control legislation.

In partnership with Fairfield-based Connecticut Against Gun Violence, the March for Change movement was initiated by two Fairfield parents in response to the killings of 26 first grade students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14. Organizers said they formed a bipartisan grassroots coalition to urge state legislators to pass stricter “common sense” gun laws.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to address the crowd at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14. He will be joined by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen.

“We became activists because we had to,” said Nancy Lefkowitz, co-founder, with Meg Staunton, of March for Change. “All eyes are looking to Connecticut. There’s a fervor to get something done and we need to seize the opportunity.”

In the past couple of weeks, people throughout Connecticut have been reserving spots on buses that are leaving from throughout the state, including Weston, Fairfield, Monroe, Easton, Trumbull, Darien/Rowayton, Greenwich, Stamford, Westport, Wilton, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Redding, Danbury, north Ridgefield, south Ridgefield, Madison, Litchfield, Warren, and Kent.

Weston has at least four buses going to the march and reservations are still being taken (see story below ).

“It’s important for all of us from all over the state to get behind movements that will directly impact our children,” said Medha Thomas, founder of CT Moms Online, a web-based  parenting forum. Volunteers from the forum are acting as team captains for the Feb. 14 event in Hartford.

This week Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s former attorney general, and Sen. Chris Murphy joined California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill in support of a bill she introduced to ban “assault weapons.”

State Rep. Bob Godfrey (D-Danbury) and state Sen. Beth Bye (D-Farmington) proposed legislation to the state General Assembly that calls for permit requirements for ammunition purchases, a heavy tax on bullets and firearms magazines, and new rules about the rounds of ammunition for legal guns. They’re also looking to change the state’s definition of “assault weapon” to include the Bushmaster .223 M4 used by the shooter in Newtown.

March for Change

March for Change’s organizers assert their support for the Second Amendment. But they said “assault weapons” should not be permitted.

“Newtown has been a tipping point for many,” Ms. Staunton said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised to have the support of people who are gun owners and who may not have supported stricter gun legislation in the past.”

However, in order for change to happen, a “critical mass” needs to show up in Hartford Feb. 14, the March for Change co-founders said.

“We also need people to write to their legislators and we need them to be ready to make a sustained commitment to this cause,” Ms. Lefkowitz said. “We know that 1,000 turned out for a recent pro-NRA rally, so we have to at least double that. If the NRA is coming out loud, we have to be louder.”

That said, they’re also pleased by the show of support the cause has inspired so far.

“We’ve been in awe of all of these incredibly passionate supporters that have turned up,” Ms. Staunton said.

March for Change was born in Ms. Lefkowitz’s kitchen the evening of Dec. 14. Like many people, the two Fairfield mothers grappled with the tragic deaths caused by gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Feeling they had to “do something,” they invited Ron Pinciaro, a Fairfield resident and president of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, to talk to them the next morning. Out of that conversation, they decided to host a public meeting two days later.

“I thought, if we’re feeling this way, others must be, too,” Ms. Lefkowitz explained. “So I put it out on Facebook.”

She found the response overwhelming.

“We had 250 people — not just moms, there were grandmothers, dads, legislators, the press — who came and spoke,” she said. “Change is possible, and that is what we are focusing on with the march.”

Ms. Staunton said they hope Connecticut will become “a template” for the rest of the states to follow.

The date, Feb. 14, was chosen because it’s the two-month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy. “It’s also Valentine’s Day, and our hearts are broken,” Ms. Lefkowitz said. “We also wanted it to be during the week when the legislators are in session.”

Listening

State Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-Newtown) said she has been sitting in on many meetings listening to people’s ideas about the prevention of gun violence. Also a member of the General Assembly’s task force, Ms. Hovey said she is putting aside her own perspectives and listening intently to the various views of individuals and groups.

“People are moving through the grieving process, and as they go through that process, it’s important they do what they need to do to convey their belief systems or their values,” Ms. Hovey said. “As a community and as a state, we need to be healing. And I support people in having their voices heard. I think it’s really important to listen to all that’s being said.”

Information on the Feb. 14 rally is available at marchforchange.org.

Seats on buses to Hartford may be reserved at ctmomsonline.com.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence posts information on legislation at cagv.org.

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