Greenwich Delegation Split on Gun Safety Ideas

On Thursday morning newsfeeds were populated with word of yet another mass shooting, this one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gunman took the lives of four people in a medical office building.

These killings followed those in Uvalde, TX, on May 24 where 19 children plus two teachers were shot and killed in an elementary school, and the tragedy in Buffalo, NY on May 14 in a supermarket when a shooter took the lives of 10 people. The spate of mass killings formed the backdrop for First Selectman Camillo’s proclamation declaring June 2 National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Outside town hall a crowd of about, 50 many wearing orange, were already keenly aware of gun violence.

Standing with Camillo were State Senator Ryan Fazio (R-36), State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150), State Rep Kimberly Fiorello (R-149) and State Rep Harry Arora (R-151).

In the audience were Democratic candidate for State Rep Hector Arzeno running in the 151 district, Democratic candidate for State Rep Rachel Khanna running in the 149 district, Democratic candidate for State Senator Trevor Crow (36), and Republican candidate for State Rep Ed Lopez in the 150th district.

Not present was Peter Sherr, Republican who will compete against Mr. Arzeno to fill the seat of State Rep Harry Arora who is running instead for State Treasurer.

Camillo noted in his proclamation that in 2021 there were 238 gun deaths Connecticut.

He acknowledged the significance of the color orange and how friends of Hadiya Pendleton who was tragically shot in Jan 2013 at the age of 15, had asked their classmates to commemorate her life by wearing orange to symbolize the value of human life.

Camillo drew applause when he described gun violence as a non-partisan issue.

“It’s an American issue,” he said. “It’s a human issue.”

Camillo said there were many nights when as a State Rep in Hartford he wondered what would happen if there was an incident at the capitol.

“And likewise I do the same thing in the building behind us,” he said pointing to town hall.

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, State Rep Steve Meskers, State Rep Harry Arora, State Rep Kimberly Fiorello and State Senator Ryan Fazio. June 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

Camillo talked about a combination of background checks, improved mental health and building security.

“That won’t get us to a 100% foolproof position, but it’ll get us close,” he said.

“I would ask our leaders in Washington to get to work and get something done so that at least it moves the ball down the field,” Camillo continued, adding that negotiation and cooperation would be important.

None of the other elected officials addressed the crowd, but several to shared what they might have said if they had a turn at the mic.

Greenwich Selectwoman Janet stone McGuigan and State Rep Steve Meskers. June 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

State Rep Steve Meskers

State Rep Meskers said he was proud of his voting record on gun safety.

“I am concerned about resistance in Washington to hold the dealers responsible, to keep the chain of command in record, and that we have federal legislation to back up what we have done (in Connecticut),” he said. “I would hope that all of our legislators would stand up to the gun industry.”

Janet Stone McGuigan

Democratic Selectwoman Janet Stone McGuigan said she anticipated taking stands, writing letters and wearing orange until the violence stops.

“This is an issue that potentially has an impact on Greenwich,” McGuigan said. “If you look at our budget, we take in $30,000 a year on gun permits. I’m sure most gun owners in Greenwich are responsible, but I just read yesterday that (Greenwich has) four weapons offenders who appear on the state list. So we should not have a false sens of security that gun violence can only happen in other towns.”

Rachel Khanna and Jen Barro at the Proclamation for Gun Violence Awareness. June 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

Rachel Khanna

Democrat Rachel Khanna who is challenging incumbent State Rep Kimberly Fiorello in the 149th district said she’d like to see Connecticut’s gun laws adopted on a federal level.

Khanna said when she learned about the Oklahoma shooting, her first thought was that gun violence must not become normalized. She said her daughter visiting from Chicago had mentioned there had been 40+ shootings in that city in a weekend.

“If you don’t react, it becomes normal,” Khanna warned.

If elected, Khanna said gun safety would be one of her priorities.

“Any loophole we can fill, we need to fill it in Connecticut,” she said. “Connecticut is good (on gun safety), but there is more we can do. We talk about mental health, and that’s critical, but that’s critical in so many other areas as well.”

“If you like to shoot for sport there are rules and regulations. For every sport, there is safety gear to wear. In soccer you wear shin guards,” Khanna said. “This is a natural extension, we need to make sure that this is regulated.”

State Senator Ryan Fazio and Sarah Selbert Savov outside Town Hall on Thursday before First Selectman Fred Camillo shared a proclamation on June 2, National Gun Violence Awareness Day. June 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

Senator Ryan Fazio

State Senator Fazio said he supported existing Connecticut gun laws, but said the state needed to reduce gun violence, especially in its larger cities.

“We’re standing ready to act in an agreeable way that will keep people safe,” he said.

Fazio said New Haven and Hartford had a bigger surge in homicides during the pandemic than other cities across the country.

“We need consent searches back,” Fazio said. “The proactive policing that was taken away under the 2020 police reform law – that was responsible, according to police, for taking hundreds of illegal guns off the street over recent years. That was taken out of the hands of police.”

“We need to harden our most vulnerable populations,” he continued, adding that school resource officers need to be supported and those programs expanded.

Fazio talked about background checks.

“There is an open question about whether our background check system and red flag system always work. There are cases across the country where there are background checks on purchases and people who have an active criminal record are still able to get firearms because the system isn’t hardened or accurate. We should be auditing our background check system to see how many false positives and false negatives there are.”

Again, on the rise in homicides in the past two years in Connecticut’s largest cities, Fazio pointed to an aspect of the 2020 Police Accountability Law.

“If you don’t have police taking illegal guns out of the hands of criminals, they’re going to be emboldened and have the tools to make horrific murders. So the police law bears important culpability in that rise,” Fazio said.

State Rep Harry Arora (R-151), State Rep Kimberly Fiorello (R-149) and State Senator Ryan Fazio (R-36). June 2, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

State Rep Kimberly Fiorello

State Rep Kimberly Fiorello said news of another mass shooting had been heartbreaking.

“In some ways, the problem is so deep rooted in the culture of our young people, and why it is constantly happening is something you wrestle with as a society.”

Fiorello said she was currently reading the report from the Sandy Hook Commission.

“I wasn’t a legislator when that came out. One question I had was how much of those recommendations have been implemented in Connecticut, and is there more from that commission can we do?”

On gun violence, Fiorello pointed a finger at the breakdown of the family unit.

“When you look at the whole problem, to me it’s about fixing the family unit,” she said.

Also, she said, “There are a lot of things that are not going well in our society. One of them is our education system. I’m constantly fighting for school choice for parents. That is a civil rights fight in our state . It’s all linked. It’s how those kids do in their schools, what choices those parents can have. It may not be to directly take the guns out of people’s hands, but it is linked to raising up children who grow up to be part of a healthy, functioning society.”

“We’re talking about our cities, and the places where they stopped school choice the most, the most resisted, are the communities that could most use it,” she said.

“Our job is to continue to represent this town and Stamford to pass laws, or not pass laws, to ensure we can grow as a thriving civil healthy society,” Fiorello said. “It’s something we do all the time. It’s not just because there is a shooting in Oklahoma or Texas.”

Fiorello said she had a town hall style meeting scheduled soon with Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“He’s also on the board of a national adoption agency called the Spence Group, that promotes adoption, and helping that to happen more often in our society. He’s written a book called Agency, (Agency: The Four Point Plan (F.R.E.E.) for ALL Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover Their Pathway to Power) about building healthy social structures. That’s one of the keys to ensuring we don’t have more of these boys growing up this way.”

Ed Lopez

After the event, Lopez, who is challenging State Rep Meskers in the 150th district said in an email, “Moments like this summon the need to find swift and rational ways to prevent these tragedies from happening again; our hearts race in frustration as we ponder what we could’ve done differently. This urgency inevitably co-exists with the profound and sometimes debilitating grief we feel for the victims and those most directly afflicted by these events. We can only find strength by looking past our differences, connecting in our shared humanity, in humility and with faith striving in our universal desire to stem these manifestations of evil from our pursuit of liberty and happiness.”

Trevor Crow

Trevor Crow who is challenging Mr. Fazio for State Senate in the 36th district sent an email saying, “We need a comprehensive approach including tighter safe guns laws and more funding for mental healthcare. Both of which the GOP has consistently voted against.”

Hector Arzeno

Hector Arzeno who is running for State Rep in district 151 said, “We all should be in agreement that we have to enforce background checks, expand the ban on assault rifles, enforce the implementation of licensing for gun possession, implement Ethan’s Law, and increase the age to 21 for gun purchases.”