GUILFORD — Thousands who filled the Green Saturday in one of 800 “March for Our Lives” gun-control rallies held around the country, had one overriding message for the nation’s leaders: If you don’t ban assault weapons, bump stocks, ghost guns and take other measures on gun control, you will not be elected.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who received resounding cheers and chants of “Murphy for President, said this was the day the world would see that the gun control movement is “bigger and more powerful than the gun lobby.”
“We are standing up in record numbers across this county,” he said. “We’re bigger and more powerful than the gun lobby. The world is seeing it today.”
Murphy told the personal about how two weeks ago his son, a kindergartner experienced his first active shooter drill. In his case, students are to cram into a bathroom in the classroom.
“I didn’t like it,” Murphy’s son told him, bringing tears to the senator’s eyes.
Murphy said no 6-year-old, 16-year-old or any other student, “Should have to wonder if they’re going to survive a day at school.” He added that children living in urban areas shouldn’t have to feel unsafe walking to the corner store.
He emphasized that if gun laws don’t change, voters should show their objection at the polls during elections.
Murphy said that following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 first graders and six adults, fighting for control has become “a labor of love” for him.
He said young people standing up for change made the difference in Vietnam, in the civil rights movement, in marriage equality and they will do it on the gun control issue as well.
While there were rallyers and marches of all ages present — grandmothers with walkers were holding gun control placards — it was teens moved by the school shootings in Parkland, Fla. who gave the most compelling speeches and readings on stage.
Daniel Hand High School students Kate Klein and Grace McFadden, both 16 and juniors, organized the walkout at their high school recently that was part of a nationwide move.
Klein, who spoke at the rally, said the Parkland shootings really hit home because that community is supposed to be a safe one like Madison or Guilford and the victims look like people she knows.
“We are standing up and saying, ‘This is not okay. We’re not looking for prayers,” she said.
McFadden read a moving poem by a Parkland shooting student survivor.
Ella Franzoni, a high school senior from Clinton, spoke eloquently on stage, saying she heard her age group referred to as the “mass shooting generation,” on television — but that isn’t what they want to be known for. She said there have been 194 school shootings since she was born in 2000 and no one has gotten used to the shakey phone videos taken from under desks and other images.
“My generation is waking up,” she said. “We see the lies of a corrupt system.”
Recently retired Stockton “Stocky Clark” of Hamden arrived two hours early to the Green as did many others and enthusiastically purchased an Orange T-shirt reading: “How many kids does it take to change our gun laws?” He bought the shirt from the group CT Against Gun Violence.
Clark said he wants to see a ban on assault weapons.
“I’m outraged by the lack of leadership and common sense in our Congress and president … We are very near a tipping point in terms of the demise of democracy,” Clark said. “Most of all, we have to protect our children and not turn our schools into war zones.”
New Haven residents Mike Gill and Joanne Paone-Gill, said they believe it will be this generation, some of their nine grandchildren among them who will make the real difference in toughening gun control laws. She was proud that their high school and elementary school-aged grandchildren joined the recent nationwide school walkout — against the will of their school officials/
“These are the kids who are our future politicians,” and Joanne Paone-Gill said. “It’s on not enough to see something and say something. We need to do something.”
She said it’s enough to just take guns away and that the problem stems from several areas, including taking the NRA out of government — a sentiment also expressed on many protest signs.
While there was no organized counter rally, Steve Bristol of Clinton sat in his car with a huge handmade sign on the dashboard and visible through the windshield that read: “You want the govt the founders feared.”
Although no one appeared to react to the sign, Bristol decided to put it in the trunk, fearing someone might damage his car, “and I like my car,” he said.
Bristol said he is not a member of the NRA and does not own weapons, but is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. “I believe their goal is to take down the second amendment,” he said of those feet away on the green at the rally. He said Democrats are incrementally eating away at the second amendment.
At a second speaking portion of the rally, after the thousands took a symbolic .8 mile march, local legislators spoke, including state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Branford.
Looking out at the vast crowd and strongly worded signs, Kennedy said that as someone who had two uncles killed by gunfire in broad daylight — and whose family has had to relive the tragedies through news clips and the Zapruder film — he was never prouder than Saturday to be a member of the shoreline community.
Kennedy said that while his family has never been a fan of the NRA, the organization last year gave $38 million to politicians, but that Saturday’s show of solidarity on the gun control issue sent a far more powerful message.
As the rally wound down, Mike Song, whose son Ethan Song, 15, of Guilford, was killed by a gunshot in a home here months ago, performed John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.”
Mike Song said there is no way to change the past, but he can help prevent tragedies in the future.
“I believe reasonable people can come to agreement,” on issues such as background checks, wait times and more, he said.
He said losing Ethan is “ like having part of your soul ripped out,” but,“We are going to make a meaningful change.”