WESTPORT, Conn. -- With the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shootings approaching, several dozen local residents gathered at the Westport Unitarian Church on Thursday night for a memorial vigil.
The Rev. Roberta Finkelstein led the gathering in a moment of reflection and prayer, commemorating the 26 lives lost in the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, on Dec. 14, 2012.
“We gather to remember and to grieve,” Finkelstein said, “but also to call attention to the impact of gun violence in our communities.”
Bells rang out softly in the background as people filed to the front of the church, where they lit a series of candles in memory of the victims. Soon, though, the focus shifted to how such violence might be prevented.
Ron Pinciaro, executive director of advocacy group Connecticut Against Gun Violence, spoke in celebration of the reforms made to the state’s gun laws last year, but said there was still much to be accomplished.
Pinciaro pointed to significant drops in the state’s rate of gun homicides since the new laws were passed: from 115 homicides in 2012 to 71 in 2013, and just 50 so far this year.
“Those are lives that are being saved,” he said.
It was vital, Pinciaro said, to seize upon the public outrage that grew in the wake of the shootings in nearby Newtown and use it to enact meaningful reforms.
“Legislators thought that they could wait, and let the so-called Connecticut effect just fade away,” he said. “But that effect is still felt today, with people showing up to [memorial] events around the state.”
David Vita, who serves as the church’s director of social justice, agreed, and said that the issues brought to light by the shooting had not been forgotten.
“For people in this community, gun violence is very personal,” he said. “What we’ve been able to accomplish so far is good, but we can go even further.”
Finkelstein brought the vigil to a close, and people began to trickle out to their cars. Many remained seated, though, waiting at least for the candles to burn out.
Read more about changes in gun laws in Connecticut here on the Daily Voice .
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