Hundreds turned out Monday morning to hear and testify before the state legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, including some Newtown school shooting parents.
The task force hearing, set up to hear testimony on a number of legislative bills that would curb gun violence and reform current gun laws, drew a dividing line between gun advocates and those seeking reform.
"I'll die in a pile before they take away my guns," said Richard Hebert from Terryville, just one of hundreds of gun advocates who showed up at the hearing.
Lisa LaBella, co-executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said her group was fighting for sensible gun control in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting including a ban on high capacity magazines, and universal back ground checks.
"We need to strengthen our gun laws and close the loopholes," she said.
Members of March for Change, a non profit group against gun violence started by two Fairfield county mothers, were also at the hearing.
Sarah Raskin of West Hartford, a member of March for Change, said the group is fighting to change gun legislation at the state level. The group is planning to rally against gun violence at the state Capitol on Feb. 14.
Among those who testified were several Newtown parents including Mark Mattioli, who lost his 6-year-old son James, Veronique Pozner who lost her son Noah, and Neil Heslin who lost his son Jesse Lewis. Heslin sat before the panel with a picture of his son and told members that he saw no need for assault-type weapons.
The task force also heard testimony from Stephen Barton of Southbury and Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent who both survived the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting last year. The friends were on a cross-country bicycle trip which began in Virginia Beach when they stopped to watch the new Batman movie.
"If his (James Holmes) 100 round magazine hadn't jammed, I'd be dead," said Barton before testifying. Barton is with the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns and supports background checks and a ban on assault-type weapons.
Sporting a beaver-pelt coat, Paul Elsenboss of Woodbury said he's open to a national registry of gun owners, but stressed that guns don't kill people and that most mass shootings are the result of a break down in family relations.
"I'm willing to give a natioanl registry a try," he said.
The long line of people waiting to get inside the Legislative office Building was made longer by people having to pass through metal detectors.