With the Senate headed toward a major debate next week on President Obama’s proposals to curb gun violence, calls from Newtown for stricter gun laws have grown louder.
“I certainly understand the need for guns for hunting and sports and also for self-defense in certain cases,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, 53, an employee at Ricoh Americas who heads Newtown’s volunteer disaster response corps. “But there is a reason why people are not allowed to carry bazookas or missiles in their back yards. Why can’t that be the same case for an assault rifle?”
A Newtown fourth-grader identified as Ava S. fired off a letter to congressional leaders, urging them to impose new restrictions on gun use. Her words were read into the record by the town’s school superintendent, Janet Robinson, who traveled to Washington this week to address lawmakers at a hearing of the Congressional House Steering and Policy Committee.
But the town where a massacre galvanized action also is a place with a deep tradition of gun ownership and a long history of gun manufacturing. It is the headquarters of the national firearms trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents 8,000 manufacturers, retailers, shooting ranges and sportsmen.
Locals have a long tradition of hunting the woods for deer and fowl.
“When I moved here, this was an even more rural town than you see today, a place where you had many hunters,” said Rob Cox, a columnist with Reuters Views, who owns two shotguns he uses for hunting fowl and has a 14-year-old son who received a marksmanship badge from the National Rifle Association.
“I remember playing army or playing whatever in the woods and my parents would always say wear some bright colors, wear an orange hat, whistle while you walk through the woods so you would not be mistaken for a deer or a pheasant.”
Cox reacted favorably to President Obama’s proposals for reducing gun violence and said we have to “approach the issues with an open mind.”
But many gun proponents went on the defensive.
From Las Vegas, where the NSSF is hosting its annual SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) show, the world’s largest gun show, the group’s president spoke for the first time since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults before killing himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School a month ago.
“The state of our industry is, in a word, misunderstood,” Stephen L. Sanetti said Wednesday in a speech at the Venetian Hotel. “We all must recognize that those who don’t agree with us share in our desire to rid the world of such monstrous acts; and they must recognize that we are not evildoers.”