Joe Biden in CT: Gun reform summit today in Hartford

Gun Rights

“Today is a big deal because of what we are celebrating,” Murphy told the crowd. “Last year, this month, Congress passed the first major gun safety bill in 30 years, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”

As Biden arrived in Connecticut, locals gathered to watch his motorcade, including Joe Young of Hartford, who said he’s seen every living president, with the exception of George W. Bush. 

“I think it’s a historic event to watch the presidential motorcade in your hometown,” Young said. 

Before the event began, a crowd of several hundred activists from Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action and other advocacy organizations gathered in the auditorium of the Lincoln Theater at the University of Hartford campus in West Hartford. 

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The audience was a kaleidoscope of red, blue, orange and purple shirts representing a coalition of gun safety groups: Red for Moms Demand Action, blue for March for Our Lives, orange for CT Against Gun Violence and purple for the Brady Campaign.

Chris Murphy at the gun reform summit at the University of Hartford, June 16, 2023. 

Chris Murphy at the gun reform summit at the University of Hartford, June 16, 2023. 

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

Security was heavy outside the the theater.

The National Safer Communities Summit, taking place at the University of Hartford, began at 9 a.m. with a welcome from Gov. Ned Lamont and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who provided an update on gun reform in Connecticut. 

“We have success here in this state when it comes to reasonable smart, sane gun control laws because of you because of a movement because people stand up every day,” Lamont said, opening the event. “There’s more we could do to keep us safe, keep our communities safe, and I love the fact that Connecticut is a leader.”

“What we do here in Connecticut we can take around the country,” he said. 

The bill Lamont signed this year bans open carry of firearms, strengthens gun storage regulations, further expands a ban on assault-style weapons and makes so-called unregistered “ghost guns.” 

“These laws in Connecticut are keeping people safe. You look at the number of shootings, the number of murders, the number of suicides are way down in Connecticut compared to those states that are so permissive,” Lamont told the crowd. 

After Lamont and Bronin, Murphy spoke about the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Biden signed last year in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. 

“The NRA, the gun lobby, fought this bill tooth-and-nail. Every other gun rights group lobbied hard against it, but it still passed with broad bipartisan support,” Murphy said. “And that is an outcome that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.”

Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, said he was skeptical when Murphy announced last year that he was engaged in initial talks for what would become the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

“It is an amazing feat that anything got done at all,” Stein said. “It’s no surprise that it was filled with compromises, but it’s a foundation that we can work on.”

Murphy said the BSCA has already had an effect, though he said it’s “early days.”

“All across the country, data from the first five months of 2023 shows that for the first time in a long time, gun violence rates in our biggest cities are falling,” he said. “We’re seeing trends heading in the right direction.”

Biden is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at approximately 2 p.m.

Murphy said during a panel discussion that lawmakers can no longer ignore the issue. 

“The rule for a long time was that there was a very mature political movement on the side of the gun lobby, and for a very long time, there was a movement that didn’t command that kind of power, that kind of attention, that kind of manpower, on our side of the equation,” he said. “Somewhere around the time of Sandy Hook that all began to change.”

Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter, Ana Grace, died at Sandy Hook, told the audience that she almost did not attend the summit. 

“My identity is reduced to three words: Sandy Hook mom, and it’s why I almost didn’t come,” she said, before leading the audience in a moment of silence. “Survivors deserve so much more than exploitation and super hero capes.” 

Hockley, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise whose son Dylan was slain in the 2012 school shooting in Sandy Hook, told the crowd that her organization drafted the Stop School Violence Act that was signed by then-President Donald Trump in 2018 to teach kids the early warning signs that a peer is about to cause harm.

At the time, she said, federal money was focused on what to do in the event of a school shooting. “Why practice for something you don’t want to happen?” Hockley said. We should be focused on prevention.”

Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Quinton Lucas, during a panel discussion, said, “I come in peace from a red state.”

The BSCA, Lucas said, is “allowing us to have tools at a time when particularly red states are fighting against every bit of responsible not just gun legislation, but responsible, common sense intervention that makes our community safer.”

“The law that we’re talking about is so critical,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “Giving us more tools matters. It helps. This is not an unsolvable problem.”

A small number of protesters waved flags outside the venue, including Joe Visconti, who has run unsuccessful campaigns for several state-level offices. 

When asked why he came out, Visconti said, “Murphy and Blumenthal and Biden and our Democrat majority in the house are passing laws to chip away at some more at our second amendment.”

When asked about the future of the movement, Murphy remained overwhelmingly positive. 

“I just have no question that in the next several congresses, whether it’s this year or not, we are going to pass everything that we’ve been talking about here today, including an assault weapons ban, including universal background checks,” he said. “I am absolutely confident that’s going to happen.”

Following the summit, Biden is expected to be in Greenwich for a $25,000-a-head fundraiser, which Lamont is also expected to attend. The fundraiser is reportedly at the home of donor Stephen F. Mandel in Greenwich’s Midcountry, near Lake Avenue. Officials warned of possible road closures. 

“Greenwich Police Department recognizes that sudden and unexpected road closures can cause inconvenience and delay travel,” Deputy Chief Mark Zuccerella said in a statement. “The department is working with partner law enforcement agencies to reduce the impact that this may have on our community.” 

This story will be updated throughout the day as the summit continues. Check back later for updates. 

Hearst Connecticut Media Group reporters Rob Ryser, John Moritz and Ken Dixon contributed to this report. 

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