Newtown memories

Karina Barriga Albring

News Editor


taylor adolphson / Equinox staff Terri Rousseau and her husband Bill Leukhardt speak during a press conference at Keene State College on April 17, 2013.

People say the world is in the hands of the young, but what happens when young, innocent souls get taken away? It seems hard not to lose faith in humanity after witnessing massive murders committed against those who had their entire lives ahead of them.

During their visit to Keene State College on April 17, Terri Rousseau and her husband Bill Leukhardt, both journalists who lost their child in Newtown, Conn., referred to the challenges gun legislation currently faces and encouraged students to reach out to congress members and require them to vote to pass gun control policies.

Losing a parent is a tragedy; however, seeing the parents of the fallen ones in Newtown, Conn. shedding tears over their children’s graves seems to be a harsher situation. Giving out pictures of their beloved ones, writing letters and traveling, some Newtown families restlessly advocate for gun legislation.

“From this tragedy, I have learned that grief makes you strong,” Rousseau, mother of 30-year-old teacher Lauren Rousseau who was killed in Sandy Hook Elementary school last December, said.

Indeed, her grief has given her strength and her love, devotion. Rousseau has made of those feelings the fuel to fight for change.

karina Barriga Albring / news editor Rousseau displays photos of her daughter Lauren at KSC. She said members of Sandy Hook Promise have approached lawmakers, handing in letters and photos of their children to encourage them to pass gun legislation.

In early April, lawmakers in Connecticut passed a bill that seems like a great achievement for the families of Sandy Hook Promise, a group formed two months after Newtown by some the victims‘ families.

The state of Connecticut added more than 100 assault weapons to its list of banned firearms and restricted the number of rounds in a magazine to ten. The new laws also establish that citizens who own larger capacity magazines can only use them at the shooting range and have to register how many they own by Jan. 1, 2013 as well as their now banned assault weapons.

According to The Nation, Governor Dannel Malloy said after signing the bill, “If we had the law that we signed today in effect, Mrs. Lanza would not have been able to purchase that gun. It would not have been in that home.”

For Rousseau, however, the bans in Connecticut are not enough. “What I think should happen regarding gun legislation is not what is most likely to happen. I am in favor of anything that would make our culture less prevalent to violence,” Rousseau said.

Hometown of the Nation Sports Shooting Foundation, Newtown, Conn. hosts a prominent population of gun owners. “People in [Connecticut] were rushing to buy guns because they were thinking they weren’t going to be able to buy any more [after new legislation was passed]. That was very hard to see,” Rousseau said.

Taylor Adolphson / equinox staff Lauren Rousseau, one of the six educators killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Rousseau’s husband shared the same view. “Passing laws is not going to prevent things like this to happen ever again, but it will certainly prevent access and make things better,” Leukhardt stated.

Rousseau referred to access to firearms, saying, “It is crazy that we allow access to guns and  ammunitions to be so easy. You know that something is wrong when you have to register your car and things, and you don’t have to do anything with your gun.”

Similarly, Vice President Joe Biden said in the New York City Hall, “A weapon of war has no place on American streets, and taking it off American streets would have no impact on one’s constitutional rights,” according to an article in the New York Daily News.

Rousseau said in Washington D.C., the gun debate faces greater challenges. She noted the importance of advocacy and networking. She shared how the Sandy Hook Promise Members gained a victory when visiting lawmakers in Hartford, Conn.

“Some of the people [lawmakers] were starting to hedge on their support [for gun legislation]. Possession of assault rifles were what they wanted to drop. We went around and talked and showed pictures of our children. They had a meeting that afternoon and they did put it back in,” Rousseau recalled.

“A voice makes so much difference. You do have power. It is not useless to speak up,” Rousseau said.

Rousseau recalled the efforts of multiple organizations and institutions across the nation to sympathize with Sandy Hook Promise. “It is just amazing that people are gathering to do this. There are all these wonderful people that have done so much to keep our children’s memories alive. By advocating, we can keep them in mind forever,” Rousseau said.

“Speak up! There is a lot of things you can do. The Senate hasn’t voted yet. The House vote in Washington will be coming out soon. You can make phone calls, write letters, send emails to your home state legislators,” Rousseau told students.

Rousseau said gunmakers and the National Rifle Association are the greatest obstacles for stronger gun laws. “It [the NRA] has so much money and so much power […] The NRA is trying to get young people into the habit of buying guns. I think we need to change the age you should be in order to own a gun and the age required to enter a gun show,” Rousseau said.

Also, Rousseau explained she did not support gun ownership for protection. “I don’t know why, if we are so worried in defending our household, we don’t buy ourselves a nice security system. Do we really need guns to protect ourselves or is there a better way?” Rousseau stated.

Also, she pronounced herself against the arming of school staff. “I think it is a waste of money to have armed staff. Resources could be used for something much more positive,” Rousseau said. Leukhardt indicated, “It would be scary for kids to go to schools and see guns everywhere. Their sense of security will be destroyed”.

Rousseau also indicated she believes gun legislation should not be considered a “Second Amendment issue.” “We haven’t had a tradition of not banning assault rifles, no matter what the NRA wants to believe. Assault rifles were banned in the 1930s and they were banned again in the 1960s,” Rousseau said.

Moreover, Rousseau said she would support certain limitations regarding freedom of speech in order to prevent more killings. “In some cases, freedom of speech should be limited a little bit. It is crazy what people can find on the Internet. You can find information about how to make bombs. People are learning to be terrorists and murderers on websites.”

Ever since that tragic December morning, Rousseau and her family, together with other families affected by the massacre in Newtown, have been fighting non-stop to prevent events like Newton from happening again and advocating to bring justice to 26 fallen angels of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Surrounded by photos of Lauren, in front of more than 50 students unsuccessfully holding back their tears, Rousseau once more called for change. “We can’t be safe in first grade, we can’t be safe running down the street, and people think they need a whole room full of guns to stay safe in this country. It is worth a chance. All these incidents add to that feeling that we need to do something to make people safer,” she concluded.


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at


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