Greenwich can join the fight for stricter federal gun laws

Bill-Gaston-Greenwich-VoicesSince its founding in December 2012 in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, the Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence (GCAGV) has been front and center in calling attention to the need for stricter state and federal legislation to curb the plague of gun violence felt in communities across the nation.

On Saturday, March 8, the Greenwich Council will greet cyclists of Team 26 — so named after the 26 children and educators slain in Newtown, one of the deadliest school-related massacres in U.S. history —  for a noontime rally and press conference at Town Hall to advocate for commonsense gun legislation. The gathering will also honor the victims of that tragic day in Newtown.

The rally will feature a lineup of community leaders as well as local, state and federal officials to welcome the cyclists, who will afterwards continue their 400-mile ride from Sandy Hook to the nation’s Capitol.

With approximately 300 supporters in Greenwich alone, the council is led by founder Liz Perry, an educator at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, and Jonathan Perloe, a senior VP of a marketing communications agency in New York City. The grassroots group has been tireless in making its voice heard since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, forming coalitions with the Newtown Action Alliance, Sandy Hook Promise and other state and national gun violence prevention groups. It has successfully recruited state and local elected officials to support strong and comprehensive gun regulation. But its goal remains to leverage that strength at the national level.

“In 2013, Connecticut passed tough commonsense regulations to make our community safer,” said Mr. Perloe. “Now it’s time for Washington to do the same.”

Working with a core group of 15 volunteers, Mr. Perloe led the petition drive that ultimately resulted in Greenwich’s Board of Selectmen joining Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition that now includes more than 900 mayors from 45 states working to make America’s communities safe from gun violence.

First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman David Theis, together with Democratic Selectman Drew Marzullo, signed on to the petition last August. Several Republican municipal chief executives in Connecticut have signed up, including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and the former mayors of  Stamford, Michael Pavia, and Norwalk, Richard Moccia.

In December, on the heels of the successful MAIG campaign, Mr. Perloe led an “Honor Newtown. Make Your Voice Heard” letter-writing  initiative, which yielded more than 1,000 holiday cards and letters to members of Congress calling for stricter gun regulation. In January, the council formally thanked the selectmen for their support, and this month it plans to express its gratitude to the entire state delegation for its support of tougher measures that have earned Connecticut the second strongest gun safety laws in the country, according to the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

While these hard-won successes at the state and local level have been welcome, Mr. Perloe knows very well that the battle to pass stricter gun violence legislation at the national level will be fought on much more challenging terrain.

Mr. Perloe has taken two trips to Washington, D.C., along with the Newtown Action Alliance and Sandy Hook Promise groups, to lobby Congress on passing legislation for expansion of stricter gun background checks. Though supported by close to 90% of the American public, these measures have regrettably floundered on Capitol Hill, due to the power of the gun lobby and gun rights absolutists.

Says Mr. Perloe, “We’re in it for the long haul. We’re not going away until they act.”

To step up and make their own voices heard loud and clear, Greenwich residents supporting stricter gun safety regulations should drop by Town Hall on Saturday, March 8, between noon and 2. For more information on the rally and the council, contact [email protected]


Bill Gaston is a vice chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, but the opinions expressed here are his own.

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