Clinton Focuses on Gun Violence in CT Visit

     HARTFORD (CN) – Only 3 percent of likely Democratic primary voters told the Quinnipiac University poll last week that gun policy was the “most important issue in deciding who to support” — the economy, income inequality and health care were the only issues that polled in the double digits.
     But that didn’t stop Hillary Clinton from focusing her message on the gun issue Thursday during a campaign stop in Hartford’s north end. This is possibly because it’s one issue that sets her apart from her Vermont-based rival in the Democratic primary, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
     Appearing this morning at the Wilson-Gray YMCA, Clinton was introduced on stage by Erica Smegielski, the daughter of the school principal killed along with 20 children and five other educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
     “This morning we’re going to talk about an issue that really shows why the stakes are so high in Connecticut next Tuesday,” Smegielski said. “It’s personal for me, it’s also personal for Connecticut.”
     Smegielski said Clinton is her partner in combating gun violence, not only for massacres like the one at Sandy Hook, but for the violence that happens on the streets.
     Clinton said she’s not in Hartford to make promises she can’t keep.
     “I am here to tell you, I will use every minute of every single day, if I’m lucky enough to be your president, looking for ways that we can save lives,” Clinton said. “It’s just too easy for people to reach for a gun to solve their problems.”
     Clinton applauded Connecticut’s ability to pass sweeping gun-reform laws in the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook. The state banned future sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in 2013.
     An average of 90 people per day die from gun violence in America; that is 33,000 people a year, Clinton said.
     “If anything else we’re killing 33,000 people a year,” Clinton said.
     If that was any other epidemic, she added, “we’d be doing everything we possibly could to save lives.”
     Clinton was joined on stage by a former gang member, a New Haven teacher, a mother who lost her 20-year-old son to gun violence and Nelba Marquez-Green, the mother of Ana Marquez-Green, who was one of 20 first graders gunned down at Sandy Hook.
     Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin attended the event and were seated in the front row.
     Marquez-Green reminded the approximately 600 in attendance that it’s not only about guns. It’s also about mental health.
     Marquez-Green addressed her remarks in a letter to her 11-year-old son, which she read aloud.
     “Gov. Malloy I know your job must not be easy and you have really hard choices,” Marquez-Green said. “I’m concerned about the deep cuts to social services. and I know you are too.”
     Malloy, who has proposed cutting millions in social services to close a more-than $900 million budget deficit, didn’t respond to Marquez-Green’s remarks when he spoke shortly after she made her remarks.
     Clinton said Marquez-Green asked her why she’s so passionate about this issue.
     “It’s just the accumulation of 25 years of being in too many rooms with too many people who have lost someone they love to gun violence,” Clinton said. “And it just doesn’t make sense to me. Absolutely indefensible. The arguments that are made by people who will not accept responsibility for what is going on in our country.”
     She said the gun lobby never rests because they are focused only on guns. She said the rest of us are concerned with a lot of issues so, in addition to everything else, “put comprehensive gun-safety reform at the top of your list.”
     Kim Davis, one of the mother’s who lost her son to gun violence, said they have to do more than just speak about the issue.
     “We have more work to do because we want the next generation to live,” Davis said.
     Gail Lehmann of Ridgefield said this year she’s a one-issue voter this year, and that’s why she’s supporting Clinton. She said she’s not worried only 3 percent of voters are concerned about gun reform.
     “We are very patient,” Lehmann said of the gun-reform movement.
     There were several individuals from Everytown for Gun Safety, Newtown Action Alliance and Mothers Against Gun Violence who attended the YMCA in Hartford’s north end.
     Sam Saylor, who lost his son Shane to gun violence, said it wasn’t until a 2013 event with Vice President Joe Biden that he realized the pain the Newtown families suffered was the same pain he suffered.
     Saylor was seated next to the father of one of the victims at the event and said “he cried like I cried.”
     A prominent figure after shootings involving young men of color, the Rev. Henry Brown told the audience that Hartford has seen 66 gun-related gun deaths since Sandy Hook.
     He told Clinton that there’s a lack of equality in this fight.
     Clinton said there’s a lot of inequality in income, health care and corrections. She said it’s detrimental to the health of young people.
     Sen. Sanders is expected to visit Connecticut either on Sunday or Monday, but no officials plans have been announced.
     Clinton only mentioned Sanders once during the event when she talked about her vote on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
     Clinton voted against the bill and Sanders voted in favor of the legislation, which gives gun manufacturers immunity from prosecution for having their products used in crimes.
     Clinton’s campaign issued a statement last week when a Connecticut judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Sandy Hook families against gun manufacturers and sellers.
     Sanders told the New York Daily News editorial board that he didn’t believe victims of a crime should be able to sue the gun manufacturer.

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