Connecticut lawmakers renew calls for gun legislation in wake of Orlando shootings

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Connecticut lawmakers and gun-control activists have renewed calls for legislation designed to reduce easy access to assault weapons, while pro-gun lobbyists have remained mostly silent in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shootings in which 50 people died on June 12.

The killings were committed by Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old Florida resident who swore allegiance to the jihadist militant group ISIS, though he apparently was not a member of the terrorist group.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) said shootings such as the the one in Orlando — in which an additional 53 people were injured – were part of an “epidemic” that “will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing, again.”

“This phenomenon of near-constant mass shootings happens only in America – nowhere else,” Murphy continued. “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence.”

At a June 13 press conference at the state capital alongside U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-5th district), Murphy said: “Would-be terrorists are not sitting in their basements making bombs, they are walking into gun stores and purchasing assault weapons legally. Why on earth would we facilitate the work of ISIS to find lone-wolf attackers in the United States by continuing to arm them with military-style weapons?”

Blumenthal echoed Murphy’s remarks, decrying the “unspeakable epidemic of gun violence. The Senate’s inaction on common-sense gun violence prevention makes it complicit in this public health crisis. The American public is beseeching us to act on common-sense, sensible gun violence prevention measures, and [we] must heed that call.”

Jim Himes (D), whose 4th congressional district includes portions of Fairfield and New Haven counties, including the cities of Bridgeport and Stamford, told New York City radio station WCBS that he would no longer participate in the congressional moments of silence that are commonly held after such occurrences “because they are exactly what they are, it is Congress being silent, it is Congress being impotent when it has within its power to very quickly reduce the amount of mayhem and death that is out there.”

The Orlando incident, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, reminded many Connecticut residents of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 students and six adult staffers were slain.

Attorney Josh Koskoff, who represents several Sandy Hook families in a lawsuit against the Remington Arms Co., maker of the Bushmaster XM15 used in those slayings, said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had confirmed the Orlando shooter had used a .223 caliber AR-type rifle similar to the XM15.

In a statement, Koskoff said the Orlando incident was “more horrific evidence of the unique lethality of the AR-15. It is no wonder that this weapon was chosen by today’s shooter, as it has been by so many before him and as it undoubtedly will be again. It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did [Sunday] morning: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease. That is why the AR-15 has remained the weapon of choice for the United States military for over 50 years. It is the gold standard for killing the enemy in battle, just as it has become the gold standard for mass murder of innocent civilians.”

“The gun industry pretends the civilian AR-15 is vastly different than the military version, because it does not have select fire,” Koskoff continued. “This is a charade – the industry knows that the weapon is most lethal in semi-automatic, ‘one shot-one kill’ mode – yet these companies continue to sell it to civilians, abandoning reason in exchange for profit. They continue to extol the combat virtues of the AR-15 through careful marketing practices that target young, violence-prone men. As the lawsuit brought by several families destroyed by the Sandy Hook massacre seeks to do, it is time for gun manufacturers to be held responsible for these choices.”

In a separate statement, Sandy Hook Promise, a charity formed in the wake of the 2012 slayings, said: “Our hearts break for the devastated families and friends of those killed or wounded at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla. We, and too many other families across the country, understand their pain and sorrow now and in the days and years to come. Our thoughts remain with them, the loved ones killed, those injured, and the countless traumatized.”

“We must stand together and work for an end to gun violence in America. We must work tirelessly until we are able to live in a world that is safer for all. … Our hearts are in Orlando right now, but our collective actions are needed from every community across America.”

Organizations like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the latter’s headquarters are in Newtown — did not respond to calls for comment.

Spikes in gun sales have reportedly taken place after other mass shootings in the U.S.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that about one-third of American families with children under 18 living at home have a gun in their household. Of those families, 34 percent have children younger than 12.

An FBI report in 2014 found that from 2000 to 2007, there was an average of 6.4 shootings per year by individuals killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. From 2008 to 2013, there were 16.4 such incidents per year.

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