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Three busloads will head to Hartford gun march

Ridgefielders will join others wanting tighter gun laws.

Three buses will carry more than 100 Ridgefielders to Hartford to join the March for Change, a demonstration next Thursday, Feb. 14, calling for tighter gun laws, school safety measures, and more state attention to mental health problems in the wake of December’s school shooting in Newtown.

“After Columbine, nothing. After Virginia Tech, nothing. After Aurora, nothing. After Newtown?  It can’t be nothing again. It’s time to say ‘enough!’ ” said Kathie McGerald, one of the March for Change-Ridgefield organizers, in testimony at a state legislative hearings.

The Ridgefield parents, who attended hearings in Hartford and Newtown, have been organizing buses to take Ridgefielders to Hartford for the Valentine’s Day march, which is expected to draw some 2,000 people from around the state.

“As of this date, more than 110 Ridgefield residents are registered to participate. There are three buses scheduled to leave town at 9:30 a.m. Buses will return by 2:30 p.m.,” Kristina Larson, one of the local organizers, said Tuesday.

“People can still sign up for a seat on the Ridgefield North bus, which leaves from St. Elizabeth Seton Church on Ridgebury Road. Registration is through the website www.ctmomsonline.com.”

Mr. Larson said the statewide group is still working on plans for the day.

“I can confirm that Gov. Malloy is speaking. The organizers anticipate that more than 2,000 people will attend the March for Change in support of common sense gun legislation on the 14th of February.

“The conversation is evolving,” she said. “Two months ago, in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, there was an immediate call for universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. While those goals are critical, the discussion has broadened to include equally important issues concerning mental health and school safety.

“Both of these subjects were the focus of recent hearings in Hartford and also will be addressed at an upcoming panel on March 14 in Ridgefield.

“Over the past several weeks, we have seen a significant number of gun owners speak openly in favor of gun regulations that will promote the safety of our children and our communities,” she added.

“It is clear that Connecticut legislators will not maintain the status quo  — the members of the Connecticut General Assembly are working very hard to determine how they will define new rules.”

In her testimony, Ms. McGerald outlined a series of steps the state should take, many of them without “grandfather clauses” that would exempt current guns from new rules.

“As a former prosecutor, I fully understand that the majority of gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained weapons; but that doesn’t mean that we just allow people to own any weapon or any amount of ammunition that they want, particularly those that can cause massive destruction in mere seconds,” she said.

“I am asking you, as our lawmakers, to enact the following:

“1. A ban on high capacity ammunition magazines (no grandfathering);

“2. Strengthening of assault weapons ban (no grandfathering);

“3. The requirement of permits and universal background checks on all sales and transfers of guns, including long guns;

“4. The requirement that the owner stipulate that the guns are still in their possession or explain how the gun was transferred to another person;

“5. A required safety inspection every three years;

“6. Making gun owners liable for negligent storage if any person gains access to firearms and injures himself or another person or causes damage to property — the violation would be a Class D felony;

“7. A ban on the right of way for transportation of firearms and ammunition bought over the Internet;

“8. The requirement of a license/permit to purchase any gun or ammunition;

“9. A restriction of handgun sales to one gun/month.

“There are other suggestions I have,” she wrote, “which I believe would help law enforcement solve shootings and homicides, better prosecute and punish crimes involving guns, or to stop the flow of illegal guns from rogue gun dealers in places like Virginia:

“1. Micro-stamping guns and bullets;

“2. Strict, mandatory jail sentences for possessions of illegal weapons;

“3. A broader definition of what is a loaded weapon, using New York’s definition as an example;

“4. Ensure that the statewide firearms trafficking task force is working effectively. We know that many of the illegally obtained weapons come from rogue gun dealers in places like Virginia. Work with New York and New Jersey to combat this. Make this task force matter so that illegal guns can be taken off the streets in our cities.”

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