“The United States has a gun problem,” said Ridgefield resident Jeremy Stein at a rally outside the State Capitol on Monday, Aug. 5.

Stein, the executive director of the Connecticut Against Gun Violence, spoke alongside Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“The people that are committing these crimes are American citizens and they are armed with AR-15s, high-capacity magazines,” Stein said. “These things need to be banned today. This can be done in Congress with the right amount of courage.”

The crowd was made up mostly of members of the Newtown Action Alliance, Connecticut Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action, identified by their brightly colored T-shirts.

“We are leading and we need Washington to follow,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, warning that while Connecticut’s laws are strict, weapons are finding their way into the state from Maine and New Hampshire, which has much more lax laws. “We can take the lead in Connecticut, but we can’t do it alone.”

Members of the crowd held homemade signs including “Stamp Out White Supremacy Terrorism” and “Disarm Hate.” They applauded calls for a quick response nationally to the latest mass shootings.

“This is what happens when you impose a Muslim ban,” said Attorney General William Tong, the son of immigrants. “This is what happens when you separate children from their families. This is what happens when you declare a false national emergency to build a vanity project, a border wall, that the United States Congress has said ‘you shall not build.’”

He called for President Donald Trump to lead by example.

“Stop the hate and the division and the cruelty,” Tong said. “Get behind a comprehensive package of common-sense gun reforms in this country. Use the tremendous power of your office to lean on the Republican leadership of the United States Senate.”

The event took on statewide as well as national political overtones when Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz criticized state Republican officials for not attending the event, to which they were invited.

“We have leaders in our state and country who empower hate,” Bysiewicz said. “We have leaders who by their silence condone this bloodshed. Let me say that the silence on the other side is deafening. We have invited leaders in our state from both sides of the aisle, so take note who is here and who is not.”

Republicans said the partisanship tainted the event.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said in a statement that Connecticut lawmakers have worked together to create strong bipartisan legislation.

“For certain Democrat politicians to stand up today and turn a rally against gun violence into a partisan political attack on Connecticut Republicans is disturbing and shows their true colors,” Fasano said in a statement. If Connecticut’s progress can teach Washington anything it is that politics should be checked at the door if you want real solutions.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who like Fasano did not attend the event, said she agreed with much of what was said, but was disappointed by the political partisanship.

“I echo what Attorney General Tong said, that these shootings and tragic loss are a byproduct of ‘hate and division,’” she said in a statement. “During dark times and sadness it is our community ties and an effort to deepen bipartisan support that will bring about real change for the better. Please don’t go forward on a path of division. We are better than this.”

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