On Friday, December 14, 2012, for some reason we may never know, a 20-year-old man opened fire at an elementary school. He was carrying two handguns and an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. On that day, 26 people perished, including twenty children no older than six.
Wherever the police investigation takes this story as it develops, one conversation is now unavoidable. Seemingly nationwide, the Newtown tragedy has sparked a renewed movement to discuss gun control in America, and community leaders aren't hesitating to weigh in.
"We have some of the most restricted gun laws in nation already," said state Senator Bob Duff. "But I'm certain in January, we will see legislation on the table as we reconvene. Connecticut is not an island, though, and it's time for national policy, not politics, that will attack the causes of these incidents."
Duff made clear he didn't see a single answer to the issue, and whittling down theories to the best ones that will create the most change for the better would be a task unto itself, but one the nation needs to undertake. Duff likened the scenario to a post-9/11 convergence of the minds, the "best and the brightest coming together to try and prevent another attack."
"It's not realistic to try and ban guns, there are so many out there now anyway," Duff said. "This will take a series of answers and it's a little early right now. We're only a few days out from this thing. No one is going to be able to respond and say, I've got a 10-point plan in my back pocket. It requires thoughtfulness, a holistic approach and action."
Duff did add that he had a good starting point for the plan, though.
"The federal government needs to resurrect the assault weapons ban to start," he said. "It was a bad decision to let that slide."
Both sides of the aisle seem to agree. Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia echoes the sentiments of Duff, a Democrat serving the Darien and Norwalk communities. And on a topic so toxic and divisive, none seem to stumble over their opinions these days.
"I certainly, strongly believe it's time to talk about guns," Pavia said. "And not just talk about it, but find ways to deal with it. There's been talk, from Columbine to present. And now it is here in our backyard. We all have to make a conscious effort moving forward to evaluate why that is."
Pavia said one can not ignore the state of the suspect in cases like these. It would not be pertinent to dismiss what could be attributed to serious mental illness as a gun's fault, but that we must work to diagnose and treat both symptoms of the tragedy.
"What happens to an individual when in an event like this," Pavia asked. "What kind of help might they need prior to this happening?Where are the ways we can determine what sets an individual off? But with the proficiency and deadliness of the weapons out there, how are people in this mental state getting a hold of them and, more importantly, why would anyone allow them near guns in the first place."
Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia agreed, saying he'd already joined the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. He said the conversation was one the country needed to have if it wanted to end the kind of evil visited upon Connecticut.
"It's on the front pages across the country, it's certainly time," he said. "It's time for debate. I do believe you have the right to bear arms, to defend yourself. But do we need semi-automatic weapons? Assault Rifles? Are people hunting with those?"
Moccia, also a Republican, said the way weapons are designed to make sense in today's society, and he had a good idea for where to start the discussion to evolve gun legislation.
"What is the purpose of an assault rifle, of hollow point bullets? To kill and maim, quickly. No one is hunting with a weapon like that. What's next? We're going to need mounted machine guns," he said. "We can begin the discussion by looking at everything the NRA opposes. Bans, background checks. Let's look at all of it."
Stamford Police Chief Jon Fontneau weighed in with similar thoughts. He agreed he couldn't see a reason anyone would ever need to have an assault rifle, but said the quantity of guns in circulation really puts a hamper on efforts.
"There are, unfortunately, a lot weapons out there and they're out there all time," Fontneau said. "The guns are out there and, unfortunately, people are carrying them concealed. I absolutely do believe its time for this nation to have a conversation. I would have say in my personal opinion—and I don't speak for city, but as a father and a police officer, that it is time for change."
The NRA, for its part, has maintained silence on the issue thus far, stating they would be releasing more information Friday.
"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the organization said in a release. "Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
The NRA is currently scheduled to host a press conference on Friday, December 21 in the Washington, D.C. area. Friday has been declared a "Day of Mourning," by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who has arraigned for a statewide moment of silence at 9:30 a.m., and asked all 49 remaining governors to participate as well.
Both Moccia and Pavia said one area to look for is the exposure kids and those with compromised minds have to desensitizing materials like videos games and violent movies.
"In a comprehensive, ground-up evaluation of how these things occur and how we can prevent them, it's time to look at the possibility that some people can not differentiate between violent video games and other images, and real life," Pavia said.
Moccia agreed, saying cigarette ads have been banned from showing up on our TVs at home because of the negative effects they have on kids, but children are still able to flip on the TV and see a gun shooting a person.
"We need to do something about monitoring ads on television and maybe even banning some of them. People are going to yell, 'Censorship!' Well, yes, I think it's time we used some common sense," Moccia said. "Kids that are 12, 13 are seeing these ads. And sure, parents need to be responsible and monitor what their kids are watching and doing, but they could use some help."
Moccia said restricting how products that are violent in nature are sold and marketed could have a hugely positive impact on kids and their mental health and well-being, sparing them from what he diagnosed as desensitization.
Mayor Pavia said, in order for anything to be a success, everyone must come together and, right now, everyone is being reminded that they are all one big community.
"I can tell you, my two grandsons are elementary school students and they were reluctant to go to school," he said. "Whether parents are aware of it or not, they have kids aware of what's happening in the world around them. It's a job for all of us now to recognize that and acknowledge despicable acts like this can occur, but that we are dedicated to finding ways to make our schools and towns safer."