Some Connecticut members of Congress are appealing to national retailers to help fight gun violence by preventing customers from carrying guns in their stores.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty sent a letter on Friday to Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation, calling on the organization to push retailers nationwide to institute voluntary anti-weapons policies at their stores.
The letter comes just four days after a shooting rampage in Las Vegas – part of which happened at a Walmart store – in which several people, including the suspects, were killed.
It also comes after a loaded gun was found last month among items on a toy shelf at a Target store in South Carolina.
“At Walmart alone, since Newtown, 79 shootings have occurred and 19 fatalities,” Blumenthal said on Friday during a news conference at the Legislative Office Building next to the Capitol in Hartford.
Edward Peruta, director of gun rights advocacy group “Connecticut Carry,” said he doubts those numbers are accurate. He didn’t mince words in describing what he thinks of Blumenthal and Murphy, telling NBC Connecticut he’d be happy to engage either senator in a gun laws debate.
“Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, as good political surfers as they are, saw a tsunami wave on December 14, 2012,” said Peruta, referring to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 26 children and educators were killed, “And they have been grabbing their surfboards to ride the political surf ever since.”
Blumenthal, Murphy, and Esty have been fighting to get fresh momentum behind gun legislation that failed shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook, and they said backing from the National Retail Federation is the kind of leverage they need.
“Our mission now has to be on moving five or six or seven votes, so that we can pass that bill in 2015,” Murphy said.
He contends that support from the NRF would trump the NRA and other opponents, noting that some retailers and restaurants are already on board.
“Companies like Starbucks and Chipotle and Sonic have adopted no-firearms policies in their establishments,” Murphy said.
People from both sides of the argument talked of nearly identical strategies.
Po Murray, a member of the Newtown Action Alliance, was also at the news conference and said her group is supporting a “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America” petition to retailers.
“We’re prepared to boycott stores such as Target until they change their policies,” Murray pledged.
Peruta said that he and others who share his opinion are also willing to put their money where their mouths are, and they won’t be eating or spending at establishments that dissuade gun owners.
“If I walk up to a Walmart and it says ‘Firearms Prohibited,’ I’m not going to buy there. If I walk up to a Starbucks and it says ‘No Firearms,’ I’m not going to get their coffee.”