Gov. Ned Lamont Elizabeth Hamilton / CT Mirror
Sen. Richard Blumenthal began his remarks by saying “We are here to talk, but we have run out of words.” Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Sen. Richard Blumenthal began his remarks by saying “We are here to talk, but we have run out of words.” Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Democrats, led by Gov. Ned Lamont, rallied on the Capitol’s north steps Monday for stronger federal gun control measures in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in which 31 people were killed and scores more were injured.

Democrats took aim at President Donald Trump, accusing the Republican president of disseminating hate speech against immigrants and minorities that fueled the actions of the shooters, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for refusing to call a vote on the universal background check bill that has already cleared the House of Representatives.

Democrats also urged voters to cast ballots against Republicans who do not call for stronger gun control measures like nationwide bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“We have almost as many guns in this country as we have people,” Lamont told the crowd — estimated at 250 by Capitol police — gathered for the mid-day rally. Connecticut’s strict gun control measures — enacted after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown — are a national model, but not without limitation, the governor said.

All it takes, Lamont said, is another state with weak gun laws and an offender still can obtain a firearm there, and then carry it secretly into Connecticut. “We can take the lead in Connecticut but we can’t do it alone,” he said.

“Guns — guess what — cross state boundaries,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal added. “We are at the mercy of the state with the weakest gun control laws.”

Both Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, urged McConnell to call the Senate into session to adopt the background checks measure.

“To my colleague Mitch McConnell, lead or get out of the way,” Blumenthal said, as the crowd booed and shouted “Moscow Mitch.”

As the politicians took turns at the microphone, those in the crowd — some of them mothers with their young daughters fidgeting nearby, snacking on Goldfish crackers and sporting pink hair bows — spoke of the anger and frustration they feel as one mass shooting follows the next.

Julia Rubbo, 16 years old, attends Guilford High School. Kelan Lyons / CT Mirror

Julia Rubio, a 16-year-old from Guilford High School, attended the rally carrying a sign that read: “Women’s bodies are more regulated than guns.”

Rubbo said she was inspired to attend the rally by the accidental shooting death of Guilford teen Ethan Song last year. “We’re all trying to make a change, but nobody’s listening,” she said. “And they need to start.”

As members of the crowd waved signs that read “Not One More” and “Stamp Out White Supremacy Terrorism,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said he struggled whether to tell his children about the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend.

“They’re growing up in a world driven by hate and white nationalism,” he said, calling the shootings “the product of hate and cruelty.”

Tong said “this is what happens when you call immigrants — like my parents — vermin, animals.”

The president has tweeted repeatedly about the threat immigrants pose to the United States, calling them an “invasion.” During a May rally in Florida, the president talked about border control agents trying to stop migrants from crossing the border illegally and asked the crowd, “How do you stop these people?” When someone in the crowd shouted “Shoot them,” Trump laughed and responded, “That’s only in the [Florida] panhandle, can you get away with that statement.”

And last month the president tweeted that four minority congresswoman, known as “the Squad,” should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four of the lawmakers are U.S. citizens, and all but one was born in this country.

“Shame on him,” said Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance. “His racist rhetoric has fueled these mass shootings.

Trump also has linked the debate over gun control measures with his call for tougher immigration laws.

“The people who are committing these crimes are American citizens and they are armed with AR-15s,” said Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin got a loud round of applause when he said “Moms Who Demand Action has more members than the NRA.” Elizabeth Hamilton / CT Mirror
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin got a loud round of applause when he said “Moms Who Demand Action has more members than the NRA.” Elizabeth Hamilton / CT Mirror

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin took aim at the president’s assertion that a lack of access to mental health treatment is the primary cause behind the escalating gun violence in the U.S.

Bronin said the nation should be investing more in mental health, as well as programs that lift its impoverished urban centers out of poverty.

But none of these investments, he added, can replace the absolute necessity of imposing tougher gun control measures and stopping hate speech in national politics.

“If hatred pulled the trigger, then those who enable hatred pulled the trigger,” Bronin said, referring to Trump as the “Hater-in-Chief.”

Connecticut has no Republicans within its congressional delegation and no GOP state officials took part in the rally.

Republican State Chairman J.R. Romano said “It’s unfortunate the way the Democrats are trying to capitalize politically.”

Romano said he agrees with Trump on the need to impose the death penalty for heinous crimes such as this past weekend’s shootings, adding “I think we need to have a deeper conversation about mental health.”

When asked whether Connecticut Republicans should support tougher gun control measures at the national level, Romano said “I’m a believer in the 2nd Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. “I’m not going to take away the choice of someone in how they defend their home and their family.”

“What happened in Dayton and El Paso are despicable acts of terrorism,” said state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of all the victims. This violence should be condemned and our nation should not let hate divide us.”

Fasano added that “For certain Democrat politicians to stand up today and turn a rally against gun violence into a partisan, political attack on Connecticut Republicans is disturbing and shows their true colors. Some members of our Washington delegation would rather have a photo op than get to work negotiating policies to help our nation. When it comes to many issues, they would rather fight and play politics than work toward bipartisan solutions. These are the same Washington Democrats who have failed on immigration, failed on the opioid crisis, and failed on health care.”

But Democrats warned that Republicans who fail to support tougher gun measures — and even those who fail to speak out against gun violence and hate speech — would be held accountable by voters.

“You will be given your walking papers if you’re on the wrong side of this issue,” Blumenthal said. 

“The silence on the other side is deafening,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. “So take a look at who is here and who is not. And remember, your voice is your vote.” 

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Keith M. PhaneufState Budget Reporter

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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Kelan is a Report For America Corps Member who covers the intersection of mental health and criminal justice for CT Mirror. Before joining CT Mirror, Kelan was a staff writer for City Weekly, an alt weekly in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a courts reporter for The Bryan-College Station Eagle, in Texas. He is originally from Philadelphia.

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  1. The hypocrisy is astounding. I wonder how many guns were at the rally, holstered, or concealed? The underlying causes for these events are deep and complicated, but there are certain things that are clear. 1. These shootings are caused by mentally ill people. 2. It’s increasing, but has been going on for a long time before Trump. 3.
    Neither party in control of the Congress or Senate have done anything about it. 4. The political speeches with all the answers are written in advance and available to pull out when needed.

    In the end, sad but it’s a camera moment for people like Mr. Blumenthal. Where’s his Bill? Our politicians are all long on talk and short on action. Look at this article, finger pointing and worse than immature children calling each other names. So to for the immigration. Maybe they should stop the talk and do something…

  2. “Moscow Mitch?” How can you take these people at the rally seriously? These are conspiracy theorists, the loons who wear tin foil hats and conjure up boogeymen to explain their own party’s disconnect with the American people.

  3. Hypocrisy is correct, very sad these politicians want more gun laws when they are not abiding themselves picking and choosing which law to enforce or not. Enforce the laws we have on the books, maybe this way Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and others wouldn’t experiene weekends where more people die or are wounded.

  4. Instead of being surrounded by security guards, police, the press, and daylight why don’t these hypocrites walk the streets of Hatford or any other crime ridden city in the United States on any given weekend night in the summer. Talk is cheap, lives are not! ENFORCE THE LAWS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS! (BTW) There is no such a thing as a nonviolent drug arrest either, where there are drugs, there are users/buyers, there is also violence against all of humanity.

  5. So what tougher gun control laws would have prevented these three shooting? Increase background checks is the Blummenthal and Murphy’s mantra. Both received numerous coverage from the media when we know that the current laws are not being enforced. So again I see that the NRA is being blamed when they are for the laws that enforces current laws on the books.

    Was any of these weapons purchased at a gun show? Were these individuals Facebook post and other internet comments were not forwarded to the individuals that update the background check software? Why is this? The social media is taking actions against many conservatives but allow these deranged individuals a forum.

    Instead of hype and nonsense additional laws please enforce the existing laws.

  6. These politicians would have the citizenry believe that inanimate objects are to blame for the actions of people. They seek to scapegoat objects because they have no solutions to offer that would arrest and reverse the decline of a once great culture that they have enabled by facilitating and enabling the abandoning of the cultural norms and mores that had made us, our society, the greatest nation and culture to ever exist in the history of mankind on the face of this earth. These people have no real solutions to fix what is wrong they only seek temporary power for the sake of power alone and their own aggrandizement; their quest is both temporal and temporary for the sake of self-indulgence alone.

  7. Sadly, I believe the “Red Flag” legislation being discussed in DC now will pass. I believe that because I have no doubt many Republicans will be too terrified of the actions and reactions of the anti-2A crowd.

    What those chicken politicians are forgetting is that the rules for denying someone’s Const Rights will be very fluid and extremely subjective. Also, as with all things “Progressive,” once this is passed, there will be a new demand from from them ‘tomorrow’ and the Republican scaredy cats will cave on that…and so on.

    We’ve already lost, to a large degree, the Rights to Free Speech and freedom to exercise our Religion. These proposed laws arbitrarily violate, once again, a citizen’s 5th Amendment Right to due process.

    Not that it will do any good, but I implore my fellow Constitution lovers to contact their Representatives and our Senators and demand they uphold their oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

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