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Newtown youth continue to call for local ban on open-carry weapons

Courtesy of Pixabay

Survivors from the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut begged local lawmakers to push forward an effort to ban open-carry weapons on town property.

Maggie LaBanca was one of the teens that spoke at a local legislative council meeting this week. She said the council mistook her words as “hurt feelings” about the trauma she endured when 20 of her classmates and six educators were killed.

“Hurt feelings are not what happened when I was 8 years old and I listened to four minutes of gunfire in my elementary school,” Labanca said. “Hurt feelings are not what I experienced when I came home that night without my best friend Daniel. He was 7 and he was shot and I was left to live without him. That’s trauma.”

Karin LaBanca is a business owner in Newtown and Maggie’s mom. Her friend owns a women’s clothing boutique in Brookfield and said that her friend called her to tell her that her 17-year-old employee received a phone call from a man asking permission to open carry in the store. The girl thought it was a prank and hung up the phone.

“An hour later, a man walked into the boutique holding a gun. The young woman was so scared to death, as the only one in the shop, she called the Brookfield Police to come to help her,” LaBanca said. “She was distraught and traumatized as to why a middle aged white man would need to walk into a women’s clothing store carrying a weapon.”

LaBanca and her peers wore shirts of Newtown Action Alliance, a national all-volunteer grassroots organization founded by Newtown residents after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. They are a group of advocates who are working to transform their tragedy into action to end gun violence.

The debate this week was the second in the town’s history as to whether or not to ban open-carry guns on town property. The first debate was in 2014, two years after an elementary school shooting that killed 20 children and six teachers.

Democrat Paul Lundquist, Legislative Council Chairman for the town, is in favor of the ban and said Newtown is different because it has scars.

“There are significant segments of our population including our kids who are scarred and traumatized by the sight or the possibility of seeing firearms in a place or situation where they would not expect it,” Lundquist said.

Republican Cathy Reiss, a Legislative Council member, said she is against the ban and that it would have little-to-no impact on the visibility of guns around town.

“Sadly, this whole gun-control ordinance process seems to serve only to scratch at the scabs of our collective wounds and foster anger and hate among us,” Reiss said. “Therefore, I cannot recommend that Newtown continues this process any longer.”

A subcommittee has been researching a potential open-carry ban since last year. The outgoing Newtown legislative council voted eight to four on Wednesday to let newly-elected officials consider the teens’ proposed ordinance.

The new legislative council takes over in December. It’s unclear how soon they would take up the issue.

Even though the new legislative council is Republican majority, Lundquist believes that the ban is something that can be embraced by them.

“Compassion for our residents is party neutral,” Lundquist said.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.