Dozens of gun control advocates made their voices heard on Greenwich Avenue with a rally Saturday morning to call for tougher gun laws to prevent more shooting tragedies like the Dec. 14 Newtown massacre.
The Greenwich event was inspired by a rally on Saturday in Washington, D.C., as gun control advocates marched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, and several other rallies were held across the country to support the Washington rally. Greenwich resident Elizabeth Perry, who set up the local rally and who established the Greenwich Council on Gun Violence, told the Post on Saturday that she wanted to make sure people saw that this community wanted tougher gun laws and she wanted people to get more involved in the cause.
“This is not a protest,” Ms. Perry said. “We’re not here to protest against anyone in Greenwich. This is a rally. We’re trying to rally support and momentum in favor of legislation.”
Ms. Perry said the idea for the rally came out of a conversation in her living room after she sponsored a meeting on gun control for the progressive organization Moveon.org. At first she wanted the meeting to be for 20 people, and when that quickly filled up she increased it to 30 and was able to pack her home with local people who wanted sensible change in gun laws to try to prevent future tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.
“We all wanted to do something, but we’re not professionals at doing things like this,” Ms. Perry said. “We all have full-time jobs. Some people in the room even said, ‘It’s hopeless. The NRA is so well funded. What can we do?’ But we knew we couldn’t do nothing. There are people in our community that feel the same way we do, but they feel isolated, and we wanted to do this to increase visibility, and I wanted the chance to educate people about the legislation that’s been proposed.”
On a federal level, last week U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a new assault weapons ban bill with Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy signed on as co-sponsors. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District), a Cos Cob resident, has also said he supports the bill. On a state level, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s task force on gun violence, which is set to deliver a report in March, began holding hearings this week.
Ms. Perry printed copies of Ms. Feinstein’s proposal and handed them out to people at the event.
“I want people to read it,” Ms. Perry said. “I don’t want them just to take my word for it. I want them to read the assault weapons ban and understand that it’s not in any way against the Second Amendment. Nobody here is trying to take away anyone’s guns. We’re in favor of universal background checks and the assault weapons ban. I feel if we don’t raise the issue and try to keep it alive, then all the moral outrage after Sandy Hook will just disappear, and we have to do something to keep it alive and keep up the pressure on our public officials.”
Ms. Perry estimated that at its peak there were about 35 people holding signs and engaging passersby in dialogue about gun control during the several-hour rally on Greenwich Avenue in front of the war memorial outside what used to be the post office. She speculated that Saturday’s frigid temperatures curbed attendance but said even with that she considered it a successful event.
“I hope that all the people driving by are seeing our signs and realizing, ‘Oh wow, the people in my community are acting on this,’” Ms. Perry said. “I don’t think Greenwich is particularly known for its activism and it’s important for people in town to see that their neighbors really care about this and are involved. We’re just one tiny voice, but that’s what’s going to go up against the NRA. There’s going to be thousands of little rallies like this.”
While the Post was at the scene, several cars honked in support of the rally, and Ms. Perry said there was a lot of that while they were there. She said many took the literature they had about the organization and the proposed legislation as well as the planned “March for Change” on Feb. 14 in Hartford. Ms. Perry estimated that dozens of people added their names to the group’s list while they were out on Greenwich Avenue.
The Greenwich organization is connected with Connecticut Against Gun Violence, and Ms. Perry said this Saturday’s event was not meant to be a one-and-done effort. While no return to Greenwich Avenue is set yet, she said the group is working with the state organization to bring about legislation in Connecticut to help reduce gun violence. She said that, especially with efforts under way from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to stop legislation, elected officials need to hear how the people feel about this issue.
“They can’t just hear the NRA opinion,” Ms. Perry said. “That group is very well organized but they’re not representative of all public opinion.”
Ms. Perry, an American history high school teacher in New York City, said one idea that’s been advanced is an “old-fashioned teach-in” like those that happened in the 1960s. At an event like that, she said, an expert would be brought into town for a public forum to “educate people.” The First Presbyterian Church has already held an event like that, according to Ms. Perry, but this would be for a broader audience. She said people with questions or concerns about the new legislative efforts would have a chance to talk and get the answers they were looking for and “get connected to the issue.”
“We have had about three people stop and argue with us, but I welcome that,” Ms. Perry said. “They’re arguing about the Second Amendment and they really want to argue that it basically contains an unlimited right to bear arms, which of course we know it doesn’t. You can’t have a tank as a personal weapon or a missile launcher. There are limits, and so we’re arguing about what those limits are and what’s reasonable. The truth is that most gun owners are very responsible people who are totally in support of gun control because people don’t want people like [Newtown shooter] Adam Lanza to be able to get weapons, and if he can it shouldn’t be a weapon that can murder 26 people in a matter of moments. … The purpose of our rally is not to get them to change their minds. If they have made up their mind, that’s fine. They’re entitled to their point of view, but they’re going to get outvoted by people like me.”
Ms. Perry said that it’s wrong to put this off on video games and movies and ignore the need for gun control. She noted that Japan has violent video games and “almost no gun deaths” because of tough gun control laws.
“Every society has mentally ill people, and there are a lot of cultures of violence, but it’s the access to weapons that’s the problem,” Ms. Perry said. “There are statistics [from the Injury Prevention Journal, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the General Social Survey and population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau] that show the United States has 5% of the world’s population and owns 50% of the guns. That statistic is so eye-opening to me.”