Lucas Flood

Contributing Writer

 

Families who never believed pain would become so common.

A community that was broken to pieces on Dec. 14, 2012, yet saw a way to avenge those lost.

This is Newtown.

Since 1982, there have been 62 mass shootings across the country with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-five of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006 and seven of them took place in 2012.

Gun violence, surging across America, has finally met its strongest opponent- the community of Newtown, Conn.

Since Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the community has responded with strength and direction, their main goal being to put an end to gun violence.

But with a common goal, comes various solutions.

On one side is the gun culture, which believes proper firearm use is key and to ban any firearms is a breach of constitutional rights.

Yet on the other, groups have formed to prevent the sales of assault weapons, high capacity magazines, as well as implementing comprehensive background checks.

With this intersection of pro and anti-gun, the stage has been set with a battered Newtown as the backdrop.

Despite efforts for their own gains, both groups strive for the same goal: to prevent gun violence across the country, starting from their front porches.

 

The NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) was chartered in 1961 to promote a better understanding of and a greater participation in hunting and the shooting sports.

Presently, located in the heart of Newtown, the NSSF is making a great effort to prevent unauthorized access to firearms, which they believe is the best way to prevent gun violence.

Over the years, the foundation has continued its public outreach efforts, while also developing a wide array of programs to encourage new and added participation in hunting and the target shooting sports.

According to its website, in the early 1980s, NSSF was in the forefront of promoting the then new sport of sporting clays and generating widespread publicity for shooting games of all kinds.

The group reports three focus areas, which include storage and safety, increased and mandatory background checks and a prosecution of straw purchasers and illegal traffickers.

A straw purchase occurs when the actual buyer of a firearm is unable to pass the required federal background check, or does not want his or her full name associated with the purchase and has someone else who can pass the required background check purchase the firearm for him or her, according to the NSSF’s website.

Yet with more than 7,000 members, the NSSF manages various outreach programs with a special emphasis on efforts to promote firearm safety and education to all gun owners.

The NSSF has set up Project ChildSafe, a safety education project, which reminds gun owners to properly store firearms at home, practice safe firearm storage options and make certain firearms are not easily accessible to anyone, especially a child, in a home environment.

“The events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec 14 could’ve been easily prevented if a lock was put on the Lanza’s gun case,” Bill Brassard, the Director of Communications of the NSSF said.

The NSSF has also campaigned to make it mandatory for states to provide all records that would deem a person unfit to own a firearm.

Federally licensed retailers are required to run a background check through the FBI’s National Instant  Criminal Background Check System (NICS) when transferring a firearm to an individual, according to the NSSF’s website.

Firearms retailers rely on NICS to ensure the lawful transfer of firearms to law-abiding citizens. Over 160 million NICS background checks have been conducted from Nov. 30, 1998 through Dec. 30, 2012; more than 19.5 million were conducted in 2012 alone, according to NSSF’s website.

With insufficient records, these background checks become meaningless. The NSSF has strived to make it mandatory for all states to provide mental health records, with their FixNICS program. It gives states a number ranking, based on how many mental health records have been made available to NICS, all of which can be found on their website, www.nssf.org.

Pennsylvania is ranked number one. Connecticut is ranked number 14.

“Adam Lanza was unable to purchase a gun in the weeks before Dec. 14 due to his opposition to a background check. We believe in regards to this part of our campaign, we have been successful. But again, if we can persuade more people to lock their guns away safely, there will be less victims of gun violence. We don’t have to take away all guns if  (people) can learn to properly use and store them,” Brassard said.

 

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

First selectman of Newtown, Connecticut, Patricia LLodra, has taken a firm stance on what she believes will make the community safer from gun violence. Today, she is in her second term, fourth year, as first selectman of Newtown.

LLodra is a member of Mayors Against Illegal guns, a group formed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston in 2006 to reduce the amount of illegal guns entering America’s cities.

Now, with over 850 Mayors in 44 states, the group is working to preserve the Second Amendment rights of Americans, to prosecute careless arms dealers, while trying to eliminate illegal trafficking of firearms, the sale of high- capacity magazines and the sale of assault rifles.

“Every act of violence comes from a multitude of things. But most importantly it comes from who the person behind the gun is. I do believe we should ban assault rifles, which is why I am a part of this organization, but I also believe that mental health records should be more readily available during background checks,” Llodra said.

 

 Sandy Hook Promise

The Sandy Hook Promise has been the voice of those who suffered losses on Dec. 14. Formed by members of Newtown’s community, including those who lost loved ones that day, Sandy Hook Promise strives for remembrance just as much as they do change in legislation. The Sandy Hook Promise is made up of gun owners, as well as non-gun owners, according to co-founder Lee Shull.

To make the Sandy Hook Promise, one must promise to honor the 26 lives that were taken in December, as well as promise to do everything possible to encourage and support common sense solutions that make a community and the country safer from similar acts of violence.

“I wanted to start this group in effort to gather people. I never thought it would get this big,” said Shull.

Shull’s reference to size is in regards to the federal compromise plan on background checks that failed in the U.S. Senate on April 17. In an attempt to create stricter laws for the country, similar to those recently passed at the state level in Connecticut, the plan failed to get the 60 votes needed in the senate.

The plan included expanded background checks on firearms sales, as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.

These extended background checks would make it harder for those looking to unlawfully purchase a firearm.

Shull said that changing laws, solely on a state level, is not enough.

“I consider myself a dreamer. But gun owners need to understand that if they are legal and rightful owners, they will remain unaffected. These laws only affect those who are trying to sell more guns, unlawfully, just to make a profit,” Shull said.

 

A Time for Change

It is clear the voices of each organization agree that gun violence has become an issue, which if left untouched will take more lives of innocent people.

“There may be different voices, but that is a good thing. We need to get behind the politicians that are fighting for our best interest and for the common good, not for their own careers,” Patricia Llodra said.

Connecticut’s newly passed gun legislation now bans assault-style weapons, limits the purchase and sale of high-capacity magazines, and requires comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers. The bill, signed by Governor Malloy of Connecticut, is a mirror image of what recently failed to pass in the Senate.

The new legislation is a small step for both sides of the gun debate, according to Malloy in a recent press conference. Those who already have firearms can still safely use them, while those looking to buy them can do so as law-abiding citizens.

But one out of 50 states does not solve the problem of gun violence. It is only through the cooperation of both parties that an agreement will be reached- one that preserves our constitution while putting a stop to the recent surge of gun violence.

“We need to ignore the fringes on both sides and keep the dialogue open,” Lee Shull said. “We need to look at ourselves as a society and wonder why there is so much violence. We need to make a change and become better people.”

 

Lucas Flood can be contacted at lflood@ksc.keene.edu

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