'March for Change' on Valentine's Day

On Valentine’s Day, more than 2,500 people are expected to rally on the North Steps of the state Capitol to support gun control legislation.

In partnership with Fairfield-based Connecticut Against Gun Violence, the March for Change movement was initiated by two local parents in response to the killings of 26 first-grade students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14. Organizers said they formed a bipartisan grassroots coalition to urge state legislators to pass stricter “common sense” gun laws.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to address the crowd at 11 a.m. Feb. 14. He will be joined by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen.

“We became activists because we had to,” said Nancy Lefkowitz, co-founder, with Meg Staunton, of March for Change. “All eyes are looking to Connecticut. There’s a fervor to get something done and we need to seize the opportunity.”

In the past couple of weeks, people throughout Connecticut have been reserving spots on buses that are leaving from about 19 towns throughout the state. These include Fairfield, Monroe, Easton, Trumbull, Darien/Rowayton, Greenwich, Stamford, Westport, Wilton, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Redding, Danbury, north Ridgefield, south Ridgefield, Madison, Litchfield, Warren and Kent. Based on demand, some towns, such as Westport and Fairfield, are working on filling a second bus.

“It’s important for all of us from all over the state to get behind movements that will directly impact our children,” Thomas said.

Volunteer CT Moms Online subscribers are acting as team captains for the Feb. 14 event in Hartford.

“We need to start at the state level before changes could be made on a national level,” said Melissa Mack, Easton’s bus coordinator.

Mack said space is available on the bus that will leave at 8:30 a.m. from the town park (formerly called Toth Park) on Black Rock Road in Easton.

“We need to make a change. We need to be heard,” she said.

Although Mack acknowledged Connecticut is the state with the fourth strongest gun laws, she added, “we could do better.”

This week Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, and Sen. Chris Murphy joined Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill in support of a bill she introduced to ban “assault weapons.”

The Fairfield activists also recently spoke with state Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), one of the legislators appointed to the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence and Child Safety.

“We have to help ensure that what happened in Newtown doesn’t happen again anywhere in America,” Bye said. “I’ve already put forth several legislative proposals regarding gun safety and mental health, and I look forward to using my knowledge of early education to make informed and significant proposals regarding school safety. Part of school safety is having sufficient support for students with behavioral or mental health needs.”

March for Change was born in Lefkowitz’s kitchen the evening of Friday, Dec. 14. Like many people, the two Fairfield moms grappled with the tragic deaths caused by gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Feeling that they had “to do something,” they invited Ron Pinciaro, a Fairfield resident and president of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, to chat the next morning. Out of that conversation, they decided to host a public meeting two days later, that Monday.

“I thought, if we’re feeling this way, others must be too,” Lefkowitz explained. “So, I put it out on Facebook.”

She found the response overwhelming.

“We had 250 people — not just moms — there were grandmothers, dads, legislators, the press — who came and spoke,” she said. “Change is possible, and that is what we are focusing on with the march.”

Staunton said they hope that Connecticut will become “a template” for the rest of the states to follow.

The date, Feb. 14, was chosen because it’s the two-month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy. “It’s also Valentine’s Day and our hearts are broken,” Lefkowitz noted. “We also wanted it to be during the week when the legislators are in session.”

Information on the Feb. 14 rally is available at marchforchange.org.

Seats on buses to Hartford may be reserved at ctmomsonline.com.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence posts information on legislation at cagv.org.