State group plans Valentine's Day rally in Hartford for gun control

The day Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six school staff member at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fairfield County mothers Nancy Lefkowitz and Meg Staunton, reached out to Connecticut Against Gun Violence, a Southport-based nonprofit organization.

"It was the tipping point," recalled Lefkowitz, who said something needed to be fixed.

So they called Ron Pinciaro, the executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence to learn more about gun control legislation.

Since that call on Dec. 14, their database of members has grown to 1,500 and their Facebook page has 2,500 "likes," Lefkowitz said. Their grass-roots organization, called March For Change, will hold a Hartford rally on Valentine's Day to be the "visual" for gun control legislation.

Some of the rally's messages, according to Lefkowitz, will include:

"Demand safer, rational gun laws now."

"Our hearts are broken this Valentine's Day."

"We are the passion behind the politics."

Pinciaro commended the group. "They have done a wonderful job," he said, "and I think that the country - and the capital and the nation - will see them on Feb. 14 if not before, at these public hearings," a reference to the Jan. 30 hearing at Newtown High School by the three subcommittees of the legislature's Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety.

The rally will take place at 11 a.m. on the north steps of the state Capitol, which overlooks Bushnell Park. A press conference will be held beforehand inside the Legislative Office Building. Lefkowitz said she expects 2,000 people to attend the rally.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence has the support of March For Change members and recently proposed eight gun control laws. Some of these include:

• Strengthening the assault weapons ban by banning all weapons with military features and not grandfathering any weapons defined as assault weapons.

• Banning large capacity ammunition magazines of more than seven rounds and not grandfathering magazines with more than seven rounds.

• Requiring permits and universal background checks on all sales and transfers of guns, including long guns.

• Registration of handguns with annual renewals, which would require an annual fee and annual background check.

• Make negligent storage of a gun a Class D felony when any person gains access to firearms and injures himself, herself, others or property.

The organization's desire to destroy, turn over to law enforcement or sell out-of-state all assault weapons will probably receive the most resistance, Pinciaro said.

"I think there is no question that the gun-rights advocates will come out very strongly in opposition to this, but I think that the response from our side will be stronger," he said.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have both accepted invitations to the rally, Pinciaro said. Pinciaro and his staff have met with legislators and will attend meetings of the legislature's Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety, he said.

Members of March For Change will also be attending the legislative meetings.

"I believe in our elected officials because I think there is a moment, and I think they are aware that the moment is right now," Lefkowitz said. "And frankly, if things don't change, my money is on the other guy next time, and I am not alone in that feeling."

The gun safety subcommittee of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety will meet Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

For those who cannot attend the meetings, the legislature launched its Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety website on Tuesday.

The website is: www.cga.ct.gov/ASaferConnecticut/ or it can be reached by clicking on the green ribbon on the upper right hand side of the Connecticut General Assembly's website.

j.somers@theday.com

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