Members of Connecticut Congressional delegation called a gathering at Western Connecticut State University yesterday a summit of hope. When it comes to making sure policy changes happen in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, they said this time is different because the country is determined to make a difference.
Vice President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker of the forum. He had a message for members of Congress who talk of political risks.
"If you're concerned about your political survival, you should be concerned with the survival of our children...I believe the price to be paid politically would be to those who refuse to act."
Senator Richard Blumenthal said the unspeakable horror that happened in Newtown has given way to tremendous momentum to curb gun violence.
Biden says the strongest voices in the debate about gun control reforms will be from the people who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
"We can't remain silent. We have to speak for all those voices. We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago 12 miles from here. They can't speak for themselves. We have to speak for the voices of those six adults who died trying to save the children in their care that day who can't speak for themselves. We have to speak for the 1,900 people who have died at the other end of a gun just since Sandy Hook in this country."
Biden is recommending there be universal background checks for gun purchases, a limit to magazine capacity, a new federal gun trafficking statute and more police on the street among other changes. He also wants to ban assault weapons.
A sportsman invited to the forum, Dom Basile said everything that was done on December 14th by Adam Lanza was covered under current laws. He said if mother Nancy Lanza had secured her guns, things might have turned out differently. Governor Dannel Malloy said while he has a great respect for the 2nd amendment, with every right comes a certain amount of responsibility. He agreed that there should be stronger gun storage requirements.
Biden had a message for those opposed to a new ban on assault weapons, noting that they are not for protection or for recreation.
"These assault weapons are unnecessary and dangerous weapons that put our law enforcement personnel at risk. I hear it from one community to another. You're being outgunned...it's not just about protecting the community, but protecting the people who protect the community as well."
Mental health experts, school personnel and family of gun violence victims were among the panel members at the forum.
"The answer isn't to arm our teachers. The answer is to arm our teachers with information, so they can recognize the warning signs of mental illness" said Biden.
Senator Chris Murphy led the discussion about mental health and school safety initiatives. He pointed out that someone with a mental illness was more likely to be the subject of violence than to commit a violent act.