By Shahid Abdul-Karim, New Haven Register
In an effort to discuss ways to curb the nation’s gun violence epidemic, faith leaders, gun violence survivors, elected officials and community activist gathered recently at the Washington National Cathedral for a “United to Stop Gun Violence” forum.
The goal was to show religious solidarity among faith communities and to hear stories from families affected by gun violence as well as to meet policy makers committed to enacting commonsense gun safety measures, according to a release by the cathedral.
Among those who attended and gave remarks were U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, both D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5, who have been pushing for stricter federal background legislation.
“Before (Dylann) Roof viciously took the lives of nine innocent churchgoers, he was able to legally purchase a gun because of a glaring loophole in our background check system,” Blumenthal said in a statement to the Register, referring to the June Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shootings in South Carolina.
“Under current law, firearm sales move forward if background checks aren’t completed in 72 hours — a dangerous loophole that has allowed over (15,000) ineligible buyers to purchase a gun,” he said. “The inconvenience of waiting for a background check to complete is minor compared to the reprehensible harm that is done when dangerous people have access to weapons.”
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence website, firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 1-19 in the United States.
On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room, the website said.
“A few weeks after the shooting in Newtown, both Senator Blumenthal and I went to the North End of Hartford to convene a meeting of community groups there to talk about the epidemic of gun violence that had plagued that community for decades,” said Murphy in his remarks Tuesday.
“There was anger in that room — loud visceral anger, that was hard to know what to do with, as we were still grieving in the aftermath of Newtown,” he said.
“The anger was real, because people there didn’t understand why it took this tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, for their state, for their country, for the world to wake up to what had been the simple pitter-pat of regular, almost daily and nightly gun violence in that neighborhood.”
But Murphy said the collective response over time in the state over the unfairness of tragedies being ignored comparatively, dissipated.
“And it was months after that meeting that the families of Newtown were marching arm-in-arm with the families of Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven through the streets of that neighborhood in the North End of Hartford — collectively demanding change.”