Connecticut leaders and activists expressed heartache and frustration Sunday as they called for stricter gun laws in the wake of the country’s second mass shooting within 24 hours.
Nine people were killed and dozens were injured early Sunday morning in a shooting at a popular nightlife area of Dayton, Ohio.
The tragedy came less than 13 hours after 20 were killed and more than two dozen were injured when a young man opened fire in a crowded El Paso, Texas, shopping area.
For Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that formed after the December 2012 shooting that killed 26 first-graders and educators at an elementary school in Newtown, the latest violence brought a sense of deja vu.
“Devastated & in disbelief to be writing this, with a new city's name, again,” the organization tweeted when sharing an article on the Dayton shooting. “Our hearts are with Dayton. This is a grievous tragedy & we must all come together to prevent it from happening again. The time to act on gun violence is long passed, so start now.”
Gov. Ned Lamont ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victimsthrough sunset Thursday.
In Dayton, 24-year-old Connor Betts killed his sister and eight others in less than 30 seconds before police fatally shot him.
With authorities investigating whether the El Paso attack — 21-year-old suspect Patrick Crusius surrendered shortly after Saturday’s rampage — was a hate crime, Lamont condemned the “ideology of hatred” spreading in the country.
“There is a real epidemic of domestic terrorism growing in this country, with at least one of this weekend’s mass shootings reportedly perpetrated by a white nationalist,” Lamont said in a statement. “These are acts of evil generated by an expanding ideology of hatred. It’s far past time that leaders throughout our country take action against this plague that is tearing our nation apart.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal also denounced the growing hatred in the country and pushed for legislation that would remove guns from people who are dangerous to themselves or others.
“Hate crimes, racial violence & mass shootings are a brand of domestic terrorism,” he tweeted. “Deeply frightening, viciously dangerous, spreading like a deadly virus — this epidemic must be stopped. Our leaders must call out this hatred & counter with action.”
Blumenthal was not alone in his comments.
His colleague, Sen. Chris Murphy questioned why some politicians are running for Congress with planning to pass laws that make pople safer from gun violence.
“Why sign up for public office if you aren't going to at least try? Why go through all the trouble of being elected to federal office if you throw your hands up and let evil win?” Murphy said Sunday afternoon. “These shooters, contemplating mass slaughter, take note of their government's inaction, and they infer this silence as endorsement. For every national leader who wakes up Monday, and decides to do nothing – again – just know that the blood is soaking deeper into your hands.”
He conceded that perhaps the gun violence epidemic would not be a quick fix “but at least” it would be a start.
“Nowhere but in the United States does this epidemic rate of mass murder occur,” Murphy continued. “My heart goes out to all the victims of gun violence this weekend - in El Paso and Dayton, but also Baton Rouge, Colorado Springs, and New York. What is so heartbreaking is that almost all of this carnage is preventable.”
He said “good laws stop bad people from doing horrible things. But many of my colleagues in Congress think that their jobs require them only to express words of sympathy and concern
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the House “passed gun violence prevention legislation to keep guns out of the wrong hands.” She said the legislation also provided funding research on how to best address this public health crisis.
“But Senate Majority Leader (Mitch) McConnell has refused to take any action whatsoever,”DeLauro said.. “He and the President must act and work with Democrats to fix this problem immediately. We have lost far too many lives to gun violence, and continued inaction dishonors those who have been killed.”
DeLauro said, “These were clear acts of domestic terrorism meant to inflict fear and division. In El Paso specifically, the shooter was driven by white nationalism and hatred of immigrants—both of which have undeniably been enabled by the President.”
Moment before boarding Air Force One Sunday, President Trump told reporters that “hate has no place in our country and were going to take care of it.”
“A lot of things are in the works,” he contunued without offering specifics. “We have done much more than most administrations. But perhaps more needs to be done.”
Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, urged community members to speak up if they suspect someone might be planning an act of violence. More than 75 percent of mass shooters have alerted others to their plans, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report.
“My heart aches as we continue to see communities torn apart by mass shootings,” Hockley said in a statement. “It is critical to know that there are signs -- like a hate manifesto, social media posts, and notable fascination with guns -- that point to increased potential for violence. We must stay vigilant and say something when we see these warning signals. Our safety lies in our commitment to protecting one another.”
The Ohio attack is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the United States, according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people killed — not including the offender. The 20 mass killings in the country this year that preceded this weekend claimed 96 lives.
“The devastating gun violence tragedies in our nation this weekend are heartbreaking to physicians across America,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association. “We see the victims in our emergency departments and deliver trauma care to the injured, provide psychiatric care to the survivors, and console the families of the deceased. The frequency and scale of these mass shootings demands action.”
In 2016 the AMA declared gun violence a public health crisis.
“Everyone in America, including immigrants, aspires to the ideals of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” Harris said. “Those shared values – not hatred or division – are the guiding light for efforts to achieve a more perfect union.
“Common-sense steps, broadly supported by the American public, must be advanced by policymakers to prevent avoidable deaths and injuries caused by gun violence. We must also address the pathology of hatred that has too often fueled these mass murders and casualties.”
The latest attacks also come days after a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at Northern California's Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28.
"In just a week, we've seen three mass shootings and that's terrifying,” Nancy Wyman, chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party, said in statement. “These events leave us wondering what's next? How can we prevent gun violence and protect our families and ourselves? Good guys with guns are clearly not the answer; meaningful, commonsense gun control is.”
Lamont also called on leaders to do better to advocate for better gun laws.
“We need leadership, particularly in Washington, that will not be owned by special interests,” he said in statement. “We need leadership that will not cave to the NRA and will act in the best interest of the people of our country. We need action because thoughts and prayers will not stop mass murder.”
Newtown Action Alliance, which also formed after the Sandy Hook shooting, urged presidential candidates to support national gun licensing and registration, an assault weapons ban, computerized gun sale records and a national gun buyback program.
“NEVER think we can't stop this bloodshed. We CAN. But we need to stop being captive to the NRA. We need to #ThinkBig & offer real solutions,” the organization tweeted.
Government’s failure to pass stricter gun laws is leading to more shootings, said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
“These young men contemplating mass murder take note of the inaction of their government, shooting after shooting, and their broken minds infer endorsement by our silence,” he tweeted. “If you're doing nothing — again — after the last 24 hours, the blood is soaking deeper into your hands.”
Meanwhile, Connecticut State Police reminded residents to run, hide or fight if faced with an active shooter. The department posted tips on social media urging people to have an escape route in mind, hide in an area out of the shooter’s view or to fight with the shooter as a last resort.
“Our schools and stores, public gatherings and entertainment venues must be made safe again,” Wyman said in her statement. “We have the power to make that happen through our elected officials and our votes. Mass shootings can not become the norm."