Hockley speaking Monday, flanked by Sen. RIchard Blumenthal, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, Mark Barden and others. CT MIRROR
Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, two Sandy Hook parents, share a moment Monday.
Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, two Sandy Hook parents, share a moment Monday. CT MIRROR

The second anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre of 26 women and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was marked in Connecticut by litigation, prayer and politics.

On Friday, Nicole Hockley became a plaintiff on behalf of her son Dylan, one of the victims. On Monday, she spoke at a press event. But Sunday, the anniversary, was private.

“Yesterday was a very quiet day spent reflecting with family and friends,” Hockley said Monday. “In the words of my husband, as he wrote to some people, we truly have been carried by our friends through this, at times, when we weren’t sure we could stand.”

Hockley stood Monday in a hearing room at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford with Mark Barden, another Sandy Hook parent, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty and others to talk about how to curb the 32,000 gun deaths in the U.S. every year.

Hockley is an activist now, a woman who says she refuses to see school shootings and other gun-death violence as random events. She says she was too busy with the chores of being a suburban mother to take notice of gun violence before Sandy Hook.

“Every gun-related death is a preventable death,” Hochley said. “We are gaining momentum.”

She and Barden were among the plaintiffs to file suit in Superior Court in Bridgeport against the companies that manufactured, distributed and sold the AR-15 rifle used in the attack. The suit, filed on behalf of 10 victims, claims negligence, saying the AR-15 was based on a military design, and it is irresponsible to sell it for civilian use.

Hockley speaking Monday, flanked by Sen. RIchard Blumenthal, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, Mark Barden and others.
Hockley speaking Monday, flanked by Sen. RIchard Blumenthal, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, Mark Barden and others. CT MIRROR

Nancy Lanza legally bought a Bushmaster model XM15-E2S in March 2010 at Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor. Her 20-year-old son, Adam Lanza, killed her, then took the rifle and 10 30-round magazines to Sandy Hook Elementary.

In about five minutes, he fired 154 rounds at the school, mostly in two first-grade classroom, killing 26 and wounding two before taking his own life with a handgun.

The suit filed by the Bridgeport law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder names Bushmaster Firearms International as a defendant, along with Riverview Gun Sales, its owner, and the distributor, Camfour. Bushmaster and Riverview did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

The life of Hockley’s son was summarized in the 157th paragraph of the lawsuit:

“On the morning of December 14, 2012, Dylan Hockley was a six-year-old boy in Classroom 10. Dylan had a beaming smile that lit up a room and infectious laugh. Dylan was a child with autism, but was learning to read and would come home every day from school proudly bearing a new book. He loved the moon, garlic bread, the color purple, cuddling, and bouncing on the trampoline.”

His mother says he was shot multiple times and died instantly in the arms of a special-education assistant, who also was killed in the attack.

In the gun-control movement, there is before and after Dec. 14, 2012.

One advocacy group tracks school shootings since that date, though its data has been questioned. Another, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tracks gun laws, publishing a scorecard last week that says Connecticut ranks second on the strength of its gun controls and has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control places annual gun deaths at 32,000 — roughly the same number as traffic deaths. About 60 percent of the gun deaths are suicides.

“This cannot and will not be the new normal,” Esty said.

Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group, reported last week there were 95 school shootings since Sandy Hook, or close to one every week. (In June, the non-partisan FactCheck.Org, said the group had used an overly broad definition that doubled the actual number.)

On Monday, Hockley and Barden urged the public to remember Sandy Hook and to act. She and the others were not rallying behind a specific bill or proposal. They spoke generally about a push for programs and policies about mental health and school safety, not just gun control.

“Taking action to protect children from gun violence can take many forms. For some people that means fighting for policy and political change — that can be a long, frustrating road, and certainly not the only option. Small but meaningful actions create change,” she wrote last week in USA Today.

“If you have five minutes, start a dialogue at the dinner table about gun violence with your kids. If you have two hours, host a conversation with other parents. If you can dedicate one day a month, work with educators on how to better recognize the signs of children who may be troubled and reach out to their parents immediately. But to do nothing? That doesn’t honor the dead and doesn’t protect the living.”

Strength of Gun Laws
Rank State Grade Rank by Gun Death Rate
1 California A- 42
2 Connecticut A- 45
3 New Jersey A- 46
4 Maryland A- 33
5 New York A- 47
6 Massachusetts A- 50
7 Hawaii B+ 49
8 Illinois B+ 38
9 Rhode Island B+ 48
10 Delaware B- 30
11 Washington B- 35
12 Minnesota C 44
13 Pennsylvania C 26
14 Michigan C 22
15 Iowa C- 43
16 Colorado C- 20
17 Wisconsin C- 40
18 Oregon D+ 28
19 Ohio D 27
20 Virginia D 32
21 Nebraska D 36
22 New Hampshire D- 41
23 Indiana D- 23
24 Maine F 37
24 Oklahoma F 8
24 West Virginia F 12
27 Georgia F 19
27 North Dakota F 31
29 Nevada F 18
29 North Carolina F 25
29 Texas F 29
32 Arkansas F 7
32 Florida F 24
34 New Mexico F 9
34 South Carolina F 10
34 Tennessee F 11
37 Alabama F 5
38 Utah F 21
39 Idaho F 16
39 Montana F 6
41 Kansas F 17
41 Vermont F 39
43 South Dakota F 34
44 Alaska F 4
44 Missouri F 14
44 Wyoming F 1
47 Kentucky F 13
48 Arizona F 15
48 Mississippi F 3
50 Louisiana F 2
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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