A quarter of community leaders held a forum on gun violence and its effects on the Manchester community Thursday evening in the SBM Auditorium of Manchester Community College.
Panelists on the forum included Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy, Interim Superintendent of Manchester Public Schools Richard Kisiel, State Rep. Jason Rojas, D-9th District, and Sister Linda Pepe of the Collaborative Center for Justice.
Panelists spoke for an hour on a broad range of topics related to guns, gun violence and gun control, and then took questions from the audience. There was reflection and discussion on both the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which took place in December of 2012 in Newtown, and the 2010 Hartford Distributors shootings, which took place in Manchester and before Sandy Hook was the largest mass shooting incident in Connecticut history.
In response to an audience member's question, Montminy said that he did not think a ban on "assault weapons" would be feasible from a law enforcement perspective for a number of reasons.
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"I just don't think it's feasible," Montminy said. "I think the reality is that we can't even agree on what an assault weapon is, let alone try to get them back."
Kisiel said he did not think arming school staff would make schools any safer.
"I think if children get a sense that adults in the building are carrying firearms…it creates a sense of oppression, creates a sense of fear, and that's exactly what we don't want to create in our schools," Kisiel said.
Rojas said he did not think legislation could have done anything to prevent the Newtown shootings, as he noted that the shooter, Adam Lanza, obtained the guns from his mother, who purchased them legally, but that he did think restrictions on such things as high-capacity magazines would have helped mitigate the shootings.
"If (Adam Lanza) didn't have access to them then, it's likely he could go onto the streets of most of our major cities and purchase that type of firearm illegally," Rojas said. "…We Can certainly do some things that are going to mitigate gun violence, but I don't think anything that we do is ever going to prevent something like that from happening again."
The event's program also included a resolution drafted by the Manchester Board of Directors expressing sympathy and condolences for victims of gun violence and pushing for stronger state and federal gun control laws, that include such resolutions as "back passage of a new federal assault weapon ban that will remove military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines from our communities."
After the forum, audience members were encouraged to sign the resolution.