Newtown shocked and dismayed at latest incidence of mass gun violence
NEWTOWN — A town traumatized by a mass shooting more than four years ago reacted with dismay — and a flood of questions — to news that several people had been shot Wednesday as a Congressional GOP baseball team held early-morning practice.
Among those injured was U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority whip.
“You have to keep asking yourself, ‘How are we going to stop this?’” said Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown. “I don’t know what we’re learning from all these experiences. It’s extremely frustrating.
“Every day it seems to be another situation,” Weiss said. “I just wonder where all the hate is coming from.”
Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra called Wednesday’s shootings “terribly upsetting” and offered her sympathies and prayers to Scalise.
“It tapped into that nagging concern for me that the use of guns to settle a dispute or to communicate an upset or a concern about an issue has become too prevalent,” Llodra said. “I said a long time ago, when the horrible thing happened at Sandy Hook, that I no longer felt that I had the right to ignore violence.”
State Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, a Republican who represents Newtown, wondered “as a society, how much have we really learned?”
“Any time there is a targeted shooting like this, it’s frightening, and makes me wonder why we don’t devote more resources to mental health issues,” Bolinsky said.
Bolinksy, who voted in favor of new gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012, said he would like to know where the shooter got the gun in the first place.
“I have a lot of questions about how he got the gun and if there was a background check,” he said. “Unlike many in my party, I’ve always been in favor of background checks, and I’ve been disappointed that at the congressional level we can’t get that passed.”
Po Murray, chairman of the Sandy Hook-based Newtown Action Alliance, said she hoped the shooting would lead to a renewed emphasis on gun safety legislation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Rep. Scalise, but we hope this is a wake-up call for the GOP, because gun violence affects everybody,” Murray said. “The GOP has an obligation to protect all of us from gun violence, and this is the time to do it.”
Attorney Joel Faxon, who serves as chairman of the Newtown Police Commission, said, “I know for a fact that police would be ecstatic if there were less guns on the streets.”
“The less high-powered weaponry that’s out there, the safer our police officers will be,” Faxon said. “It’s hard for me to believe that a person who opens fire on a baseball diamond is sane, but the fact that he in some fashion, legally or illegally, had access to weapons is a serious problem.
“Thank God the Capitol Police were there, otherwise it would have been a massacre,” he continued.
Chris Vadas, a Sandy Hook resident and an area law enforcement officer, said his thoughts are with the members of the Capitol Police and their families. Vadas was off duty when he heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook and rushed to the area near the school to offer his help.
Vadas said he was thankful the Capitol officers were there when the Virginia shooting started.
“They did what they had to do to take care of the situation,” Vadas said. “I feel for both the officers and their families. This is a terrible ordeal for them to go through. Hopefully they will be back on the road again soon.”
During the Sandy Hook school massacre, Penelope Odell was hiding under a table with 20 students at Masuk High School in nearby Monroe, where she was an English teacher. The school was on lockdown.
“You live it every day,” said Odell, who has lived in Newtown for about two decades. “You always think of it.”
Speaking about Wednesday’s shootings, she said, “It’s very clear to me that we live in a gun-loving culture and I believe this will continue to happen until we embrace significant gun-control legislation.
“How long are we going to let the gun lobby dictate public safety?” she added.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said Wednesday morning that everyone should take some time to pause and think about those impacted by the attack.
“We don’t have all the facts right now but it’s an incredibly scary thing,” he said. “Hopefully everyone will pull through and our thoughts and prayers are clearly with the victims and their families. This is a horrible situation.”