Just a day after a tragic shooting claimed 10 lives at a Colorado supermarket, the issue of gun control is once again being discussed in Washington, D.C. Among those providing testimony Tuesday was Waterbury’s police chief.
Addressing the U.S Senate Judiciary Committee, Chief Fernando Spagnolo explained how his community has benefited from Connecticut’s strict gun laws, many of which have been adopted since the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings.
“The events of that day, the loss of those young children and their teachers, shook the nation to its very core,” said Spagnolo.
The nation is mourning again. Within a week there’ve been two mass shootings -one in Georgia another in Colorado. While Spagnolo and others advocated for stricter gun laws Tuesday, there was opposition.
“Every time there’s a shooting we play this ridiculous theatre where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
During his testimony, which he provided remotely, Spagnolo said between 2014 and 2019 there was a 41% reduction in gun homicide and 15% reduction in gun suicides in Waterbury. He attributed this to Connecticut’s gun laws.
Among Connecticut’s gun laws are mandatory background checks and disqualification for felons and those with a history of mental illness.
In 1999, Mike Lawlor helped craft some of these laws when he was an advisor for Governor Dannel Malloy. Lawlor, who is now a University of New Haven associate professor, helped author the Connecticut Red Flag Gun Laws. He said other states could benefit from what’s being done here.
“It’s not about banning all guns. It’s about regulating access to these firearms,” Lawlor said.
Spagnolo agrees and would like to see surrounding states mirror what Connecticut has done.
“It would certainly reduce the amount of guns that get in the hands of prohibited persons. It would make our community safer,” explained Spagnolo in an interview with NBC Connecticut following the hearing.
Pushing back on the idea is the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL). They assert that states should have gun laws more representative of their own culture. The CCDL says guns are not all bad.
“A firearm is not just intended to do harm,” said CCDL President Holly Sullivan. “A firearm does quite a bit of good as well.”
Meanwhile, Connecticut Against Gun Violence (CAGV) stands in support of more state’s adopting laws like Connecticut’s.
“Until all 50 states have laws that are as strong as Connecticut, we’re going to continue to see gun deaths rise in states that have weak gun laws,” said CAGV Executive Director Jeremy Stein.
The debate is expected to continue. Tuesday’s hearing was the first in a series that will explore specific gun violence reforms.