A rally against gun violence organized by Wilton teen Isabella Segall, drew more than 100 residents and government officials to Ballard Park Wednesday, Feb. 21.
Bolstered by social media, Wilton and Ridgefield teens spoke from the gazebo in the middle of the park, sharing their concerns about gun laws and a disregard for mental illness. They said two issues have put them in the crosshairs of mass shootings.
“It has to be in the voices of the people being targeted,” said Avi Garrett, a 16-year-old student at Wilton High.
“I think it’s unacceptable that this kind of thing isn’t happening more,” she said, referring to the rally.
Garrett said she wants to see more restrictions on who can get a gun, as well as better training on warning signs that someone might commit a violent act.
Congressman Jim Himes, who represents most of Fairfield County in the US House of Representative, also spoke at the rally.
Himes urged the young people in the audience to reach out to people whose views on gun control might be different from their own.
For someone growing up in rural Pennsylvania, he said, receiving their first gun is considered a “right of passage” — something which gun-control activists should keep in mind in their protests.
“We need to understand that, we need to engage those people in conversation, because what we’re doing here is changing hearts,” Himes said. “When you change more people’s hearts, their representatives will follow — or as Bob said, they will get another job,” he added, referring to a comment made by State Senator Bob Duff.
In an interview with The Press shortly after the meeting, Himes said the energy and commitment of the young people in the audience will ultimately be “the wave that crests and brings change about.”
“I saw this after Sandy Hook, parents mobilized” Himes said, “I’ll never forget, mothers around Fairfield County, they saw themselves in that tragedy, and so there are still mothers that have dedicated their lives to making sure that a Sandy Hook doesn’t happen again.”
Himes said a lot of the teens could see themselves in the folks who lost their lives in Parkland.
“I think they felt it, and my plea to them was just — don’t let that movement fizzle. Keep that level of passion until you’ve made the change that you know this country needs.”