‘Gun Appreciation Day’ comes to the State Capitol

Hundreds rallied Saturday outside the State Capitol on “Gun Appreciation Day,” protesting the prospect of new gun-control legislation in Washington and Hartford in response the shooting deaths of 26 children and educators in Newtown.

“Write your legislators, email them, call them, put the pressure on them,” Robert Crook, a lobbyist for gun owners as director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, told the crowd. “Show up at the public hearings. Do the job, and we’ll win.”

A bipartisan legislative task force is holding public hearings beginning Friday.

Gun protest

“This is a warning shot,” was the message on one sign held aloft Saturday. Another said, “Assault is a behavior, not a device.”

Some protesters came dressed in hunting gear, wearing camouflage jacks. Others wore NRA hats. Some wore green-and-white ribbons in honor of the Newtown victims.

Jonathan Hardy of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League asked them, “How many of y’all own assault weapons?”

Numerous hands rose.

“None of y’all do. Y’all lie, you’re falling into the hype,” Hardy told the crowd. Everyone laughed.

Many gun owners reject the label of assault weapon for any firearm that is not capable of full automatic fire. The Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, shot his victims with a Bushmaster AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle modeled after the fully automatic M-16.

Hardy asked the crowd another question, “How many of y’all have high capacity magazines?”

Hands rose again.

“Y’all still fell for that?” Hardy said jokingly. “Remember that when you testify, don’t fall to the hype, don’t fall to what the other side is gonna tell you. What we are is we’re law-abiding citizens and we are not the problem in this country.”

Lanza used 30-round magazines. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders favor banning the sale of magazines with a capacity of greater than 10 rounds. New York just adopted ban on magazines with more than 7 rounds.

Jim Fish, a resident of Enfield and a member of the National Rifle Association for more than 30 years, was at the rally for three hours. For him, gun control does nothing to limit crime, but represents an infringment of individual rights by the government.

“They’re the predator. They’re not going after the wolf, they’re going to go after the sheep,” Fish said of criminals. He suggested lawmakers “need crime control, not gun control.”

Fish said he target shoots, most often with a .22-caliber rifle.