First Selectman Tom Herrmann and school Superintendent Bernard A. Josefsberg attended a federal conference on reducing gun violence Feb. 21 at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury along with other municipal and school leaders and police personnel.
Vice President Joe Biden, who leads President Obama’s task force for stricter gun laws that was formed after the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, delivered an impassioned speech and said the nation must act now and not let the carnage continue.
“We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago,” he said. He also spoke of the six adults who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School trying to protect the children and the 1,900 lives that have been lost to gun violence since then.
The overarching message of the conference was that the nation and state need to take the following action:
• Require universal background checks for gun owners.
• Ban high-capacity magazines.
• Ban assault-style rifles.
• Provide better care and service for people who are mentally ill.
But it wasn’t really a conference, Mr. Herrmann said, because there was no interaction with the invited guests.
“This is a moment when society is motivated to try to respond in a meaningful way to the tragedy,” Mr. Herrmann said. “I believe that everyone would like to see whatever action we take be directly in response to the tragedy. There does seem to be a general consensus for that.”
Mr. Josefsberg said there might be an opportunity for federal funding for steps the schools have already taken or wish to take to enhance security.
“I thought it was an event organized to build momentum, to build changes in federal law, sustaining and growing the ‘Connecticut effect,’ which has been used in a disparaging way by opponents of changes, who want to just wait out the Connecticut effect and everything will be OK,” Mr. Josefsberg said.
“We were encouraged to keep the effect growing. Two parents from Newtown spoke and were very articulate. It was interesting to be in the same room with Vice President Biden.”
The conference was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also attended and spoke of his experience with deadly gun violence as a youth growing up in Chicago. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also attended.
Mr. Malloy said that two months ago Connecticut became the center of a national debate after a tragedy no one ever imagined could happen here.
“We have changed. And I believe it is now time for our laws to do the same,” he said.