Danbury — On a college campus 10 miles from Newtown, Vice President Joe Biden closed a symposium on gun violence Thursday with a plea for political courage and a call for action on gun control.
“I can predict what will be written about us if we don’t act,” Biden said. “It’s not so much to ask.”
The vice president’s audience at Western Connecticut State University needed no coaxing, crowded as it was with men and women whose loved ones were among the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“We owe it to our children, and I owe it to my daughter, Grace,” Lynn McDonnell said from the stage, during a half-day of panel discussions. Her child was one of 20 first-graders shot to death at Sandy Hook.
The crowd applauded Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s call for a state ban on large-capacity magazines and the sale of any semiautomatic rifle with a single military characteristic, such as a pistol grip.
“We need to strengthen our assault-weapons ban. We have decent laws on the books today, but that law didn’t prevent the sale of an AR-15,” Malloy said.
Adam Lanza was armed with an AR-15 and 30-round magazines when he invaded Sandy Hook Dec. 14.
Malloy’s proposal, which was released during the symposium, would limit magazine size to no more than 10 rounds. He left without speaking to reporters, but he has a 4 p.m. news conference planned in Hartford.
Biden, whom President Obama designated as his point man on gun control after Sandy Hook, addressed himself to the parents of the slain children, as did his hosts, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.
“I genuinely admire your courage. I think I understand a little bit about it,” said Biden, whose wife and child were killed in a car accident when he was a newly elected U.S. senator. “You have a hell of a lot more courage than I have.”
To his political colleagues in Washington, Biden warned that inaction could be more politically dangerous than action on gun control.
“The American people are with us,” Biden said. “You should know, there is a moral price for inaction.”
Biden spoke in a ballroom to an audience of 300 and 90 reporters.
“I hope we leave here with a collective sense of action at the federal level,” said Murphy, the newly elected senator, who also represented Newtown as a congressman.
“Newtown is a call for action,” Blumenthal said. “It broke all of our hearts, but it did not destroy our determination.”
“What happens now is up to us,” Esty said.
On a day when the conversation was relentlessly grim, there was one lighter moment.
Before Biden arrived, Malloy talked about his many conversations with the vice president since the Sandy Hook tragedy and made a joking prediction: “I’m going to bet that he’s going to mention either his grandmother or his grandfather at some point in his talk with us.”
Biden did not disappoint.
“I had a grandpop named Ambrose Finnegan, and he used to say –“
His audience laughed, prompting a puzzled Biden to ask, “What the hell is so funny about that?”
Malloy walked across the stage, grasped his arms and shared the joke.