Published December 22. 2012 4:00AM
New London - The mayor and the former principal of St. Mary school are advocating for stricter gun control following the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and are looking for support from the community.
Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio joined 750 of his counterparts across the country in sending a letter to President Barack Obama asking for policies that would make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns.
Anne Tortora, who was principal at St. Mary Star of the Sea School, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school that closed last spring, has started a local chapter of One Million Moms for Gun Control.
"This was the youngest of the young and most innocent of the innocent,'' said Tortora, who lives in Uncasville and now teaches music at St. Patrick Academy, a high school in Providence.
"I think about my kids from St. Mary. I know that age group. I know those faces, those smiles and those missing teeth. I know their families are going through hell," she said.
Finizio said Friday that although he believes in the right of private gun ownership, he wants a ban on assault rifles, among other initiatives, to strengthen gun control.
"It doesn't solve all the problems, but at least it reduces the risk,'' Finizio said. "I think this is something we have to do."
Last Friday, after watching the horror in Newtown unfold, Tortora, who has grown children, said she felt compelled to act.
"I said, 'No, we can't do this anymore. We cannot wait for someone else to fix it for us,' " she said.
One Million Moms was formed following the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown. Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, it is a grassroots group, and it is demanding common sense solutions to lax gun laws. It is advocating for, among other things, a ban on assault weapons and related magazines, and closure on loopholes that encourage private gun sales without background checks.
Shannon Watts, the founder, says on the organization's website that 50 local chapters have been established in less than a week.
"There are 84 million mothers in the United States and just four million NRA members,'' Watts said in a statement issued Friday. "... It is said that a mother's love for her child is unstoppable; be sure that One Million Moms for Gun Control is as well."
Tortora created the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of One Million Moms on Facebook and created an email account - firstname.lastname@example.org - to help organize those interested in the movement.
"The bottom line is the moms - we're tired of it and we're not going to take it anymore,'' Tortora said.
The group sent a letter Friday asking the National Rifle Association to acknowledge that the shooting in Newtown was not an isolated event "but the product of an epidemic of gun violence in America."
In the first public statement since the shootings, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said Friday that armed guards should be located at all schools. But Tortora said schools should not be turned into "little police states."
"It's wrong on so many levels. ... The Second Amendment should not surpass our First Amendment right and the rights of our children to be safe,'' she said.