It’s notable when any locality says “no” to restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, but when that town was home to one of the worst mass murders in American history, it’s definitely a newsworthy event. Gun control activists intent on banning legally carried firearms on town property in Newtown, Connecticut were thwarted this week after members of the town board deadlocked 6-6 on three proposed ordinances that would have targeted legal gun owners with restrictions on possessing guns in public.
The decision came after the board heard from gun control activists who said they were intimidated at protests by armed Second Amendment supporters. The debate showed how the gun control discussion remains active in Newtown long after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which killed 20 first-graders and six educators. The eighth anniversary of the shooting is coming up on Dec. 14.
After listening to testimony from both sides of the issue Wednesday night by phone because of the pandemic, the Newtown Legislative Council deadlocked in 6-6 votes on whether to refer three proposed gun restriction ordinances to the council’s Ordinance Committee, effectively killing the requests.
Members of the Newtown Action Alliance, formed after the school shooting to prevent gun violence, had proposed the measures, in response to feeling threatened by gun rights advocates carrying firearms during protests outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group that happens to be based in Newtown.
“It’s disheartening and disappointing to live in a community where the leaders are choosing not to take our recommendations seriously, particularly after what we’ve been through in this community,” said Po Murray, a local resident and chair of the alliance.
Murray, who said that the town’s legislative council needed to take preemptive action because “white extremism is spreading across the country,” may be disappointed by the action (or lack thereof) on the part of local lawmakers, but personally, I think it’s more disheartening that nearly eight years after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, activists like Murray are still targeting legal gun owners with dubious restrictions on their right to keep and bear arms rather than focusing their efforts on mental health and criminal justice reforms.
Ryan Knapp, a Republican member of Newtown’s Legislative Council, voted against the proposed gun restrictions, questioning whether the town could prohibit gun owners from doing things they’re allowed to do under state law.
“Different people feel different ways about this,” he said. “I think ultimately this is a legal question and not a feelings question. And I don’t think it’s our purview to decide that. And I don’t want to commit the taxpayers of Newtown to funding the defense of that if I’m not confident it’s legal.”
The push to ban the open carrying of firearms on town property could come back before Newtown’s legislative council before long, with council members requesting that the town’s attorney look into the legality of a ban at its meeting on Wednesday night. For now, though, both First and Second Amendment supporters should be pleased that the council members in Newtown didn’t simply rubber-stamp the agenda of gun control activists and have chosen for now to side with the right of self-defense.