Saturday, December 22, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut – A Small Town Emblematic of the Gun Issue in America

Residents Just Said No to Reasonable Regulations

The can be no blaming of the massacre of school children in Newtown, Connecticut on anyone other than the insane man who did the shooting.  But the town of Newtown does stand for an environment that allowed this deranged individual to have access to the weapons that he used in his horrific acts.  Here is what it is like to live in Newtown.

But in the last couple of years, residents began noticing loud, repeated gunfire, and even explosions, coming from new places. Near a trailer park. By a boat launch. Next to well-appointed houses. At 2:20 p.m. on one Wednesday last spring, multiple shots were reported in a wooded area on Cold Spring Road near South Main Street, right across the road from an elementary school.

Why?  Because in Newtown, as in all across America, resident refuse to enact even the most basic protections against dangerous use of firearms.

Yet recent efforts by the police chief and other town leaders to gain some control over the shooting and the weaponry turned into a tumultuous civic fight, with traditional hunters and discreet gun owners opposed by assault weapon enthusiasts, and a modest tolerance for bearing arms competing with the staunch views of a gun industry trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has made Newtown its home.

No, this is not a war zone.  It sometimes just sounds like one.

Much of the gunfire and the explosions reported by residents to the police in recent months came from a spot less than three miles from their house. Police logs identified the spot as one of the town’s many unlicensed gun ranges, where the familiar noise of hunting rifles has grown to include automatic gunfire and explosions that have shaken houses.

“It was like this continuous, rapid fire,” said Amy Habboush, who was accustomed to the sound of gunfire but became alarmed last year when she heard what sounded like machine guns, though she did not complain to the police. “It was a concern. We knew there was target practice, but we hadn’t heard that noise before.”

And opposition to unlimited shooting in the town has been strong.

A second committee gathering in September drew such a large crowd that the meeting was moved into a high school cafeteria, where the opposition grew fierce. “This is a freedom that should never be taken away,” one woman said. Added another, “Teach kids to hunt, you will never have to hunt your kids.”

“No safety concerns exist,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman said, according to the minutes.

And no, restrictions on shooting in public next to schools and houses would not have prevented what happened in that town.  But they might prevent the accidental shooting of the next victim. 

And yes, there is the final, disgusting response of those who want their gun rights at the expense of the lives and safety of others, of those who believe so strongly in their own rights that if 20 children and 7 adults have to die in a horrendous shooting, too bad.

Scott Ostrovsky, said he and his friends had been shooting automatic weapons since he bought the 23-acre property more than 12 years ago. It is safe, he said, because his land is sandwiched between two other gun ranges, the 123-acre Pequot hunting club and the 500-acre Fairfield club.

The explosions his neighbors hear are targets that are legally available at hunting outlets. “If you’re good old boys like we are, they are exciting,” he said. He said he was distraught at the school massacre but said guns should not be made the “scapegoat.”

“Guns are why we’re free in this country, and people lose sight of that when tragedies like this happen,” he said. “A gun didn’t kill all those children, a disturbed man killed all those children.”

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