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Published: 12/18/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

TRAGEDY IN CONNECTICUT

Slayings renew debate over nation’s gun control laws

1st funerals take place in numbed Newtown

BY TRACIE MAURIELLO
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

NEWTOWN, Conn. — As this heartbroken community began laying to rest the first young victims of a horrific school shooting rampage, surrounding communities struggled to return to daily life and lawmakers in Washington began contemplating stricter gun control measures.

Family, friends, and townspeople streamed to two funeral homes to say good-bye to Jack Pinto, who loved the New York Giants and idolized their star wide receiver, and Noah Pozner, who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.

“If Noah had not been taken from us, he would have become a great man. He would been a wonderful husband and a loving father,” his uncle Alexis Haller told mourners, according to remarks he provided to the Associated Press. Both services were closed to the media.

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Noah’s twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza that left 20 children and six adults dead last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in an attack so horrifying that authorities cannot say whether the school will ever reopen.

The funerals will continue in Newtown as the community buries its slain members.

Classes were canceled at all of Newtown’s seven schools Monday. Children in most of the district were expected to resume classes today, but Sandy Hook students’ return to school will be delayed. The district hasn’t yet said where the elementary school’s 450 students will report for school or when.

Parents throughout the state were on edge Monday as they sent their children off to school three days after the Newtown tragedy.

Twenty miles from Newtown, the Ridgefield School District locked down schools after a suspicious person was seen near a school.

In Bristol, 50 miles from Newtown, a 17-year-old was arrested Sunday for making an online threat against his high school.

In several towns, including Torrington, police greeted students as they arrived at school to help them feel safe.

Parents throughout Connecticut had trouble sending their children off on school buses, according to Facebook posts and conversations overheard in nearby restaurants and convenience stores.

Josh Dobbin, whose three children attend school nearby Naugatuck, said he couldn’t help but think the shooting could have happened anywhere, that he could be one of the grieving fathers.

“When I dropped my girls off [Monday] morning, I walked them down the stone steps and held their hands and watched them go into the building. I saw the door close. Usually that’s when I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they are safe for the next bunch of hours,” Mr. Dobbin said.

An hour later, he found himself driving back to the school just to make sure they were safe. Finding no police cars in the parking lot and no one roping off a crime scene, he left again.

No parent should have those kinds of worries, said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D., Pa.).

If the shooting in Newtown doesn’t spur discussion of rational gun control, nothing will, he said.

Congress could start by banning guns with high-capacity clips, he said.

“If someone wants to own a hunting rifle to hunt, I have no problem with that. If a civilian wishes to have a handgun to protect themselves in their home I wouldn’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is a clip that allows a person to fire 30 or 50 times without reloading, semiautomatic weapons that let you get out 30 bullets as fast as you can pull a trigger,” he said.

Even gun rights advocate Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) joined the call to action, saying there’s no reason any law-abiding citizen needs to own high-capacity assault rifles like the one Adam Lanza used to kill his mother at home and then 26 adults and children at the school.

“I will defend Second Amendment rights as long as I live. I believe so strongly in that, but I also believe there is a responsible, sensible way that we should be conducting ourselves,” he said during a conference call with reporters Monday, just as funeral services began in Newtown.

He made his comments on the heels of President Obama’s speech in Newtown, where he pledged to work to curb gun violence.

Lawmakers, including Mr. Manchin and Mr. Doyle, said Congress also needs to do a better job addressing the needs of people with mental illness. Stigmas and the lack of insurance coverage keep people from getting services, they said.

“None of these things are going to stop a thing like this in its entirety, but we can take big steps in reducing these kinds of incidents,” Mr. Doyle said.

“There is no perfect solution,” he said. “It’s not like you can come up with an idea that stops all killing or makes all people who need treatment get it. All you can do is make the odds greater in your favor.”

In Connecticut, Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who did not seek re-election, advocated for creation of a blue ribbon commission to study the nation’s gun laws.

Republicans for the most part steered clear of either advocating for or against tighter gun restrictions.

The NRA took down its Facebook page and ceased posting to its Twitter account on Friday in an apparent effort to avoid providing a forum for a war of words between pro and antigun advocates.

Monday’s renewed gun-control discussion came a day after Mr. Obama, speaking at a memorial service in Newtown, promised to engage the country in finding ways to reduce gun violence.

“It’s a complex problem that will require a complex solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. “No single piece of legislation, no single action will fully address the problem, so I don’t have a specific agenda to announce to you today.”

He allowed that gun control would have to be part of the solution and that the President wants Congress to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

The carnage in Newtown began Friday morning when, officials said, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot his mother Nancy in her home, then took guns registered to her to the school, where he killed 20 first-graders, six school employees, and himself.

Investigators have not released a motive but have said they have good evidence.

“It’s a reflection of the tragedy in Newtown and its horrific nature that both elected officials and others are thinking broadly about ways that we can move forward … and be thoughtful in their approach” to gun control, Mr. Carney said. “It’s important … that we all recognize that we need to change a situation in this country that has led to too many senseless deaths of American children.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Tracie Mauriello is Washington bureau chief for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Tracie Mauriello at: tmauriello@post-gazette.com, or 703-996-9292.

Mourners arrive at the funeral service for 6-year-old Jack Pinto on Monday in Newtown, Conn. Jack was killed when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday and opened fire, killing 26 people. Mourners arrive at the funeral service for 6-year-old Jack Pinto on Monday in Newtown, Conn. Jack was killed when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday and opened fire, killing 26 people.
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A woman puts a photo of a child on a makeshift memorial in Newtown, Conn., where residents mourned victims killed in Friday's shooting. A woman puts a photo of a child on a makeshift memorial in Newtown, Conn., where residents mourned victims killed in Friday's shooting.
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A mourner arrives at a funeral service in Fairfield, Conn., for Noah Pozner, 6, one of two funerals held Monday for school shooting victims. A mourner arrives at a funeral service in Fairfield, Conn., for Noah Pozner, 6, one of two funerals held Monday for school shooting victims.
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A police officer in Fairfield, Conn., carries flowers into a funeral service for 6-year-old Noah Pozner. Some schools in the area resumed classes Monday. A police officer in Fairfield, Conn., carries flowers into a funeral service for 6-year-old Noah Pozner. Some schools in the area resumed classes Monday.
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