Last week the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL) raised the alarm about a public hearing that was scheduled to discuss legislation related to the Second Amendment. The hearing, which occurred on Monday, March 28th via a Zoom session, included discussion on two bills. CCDL brought up some issues concerning these two pieces of legislation.
Sec. 7. of this bill will establish a 21-member Commission on Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention to coordinate the funding and implementation of programs and strategies to reduce community gun violence in the state. By awarding grants and guidance to organizations working toward reducing gun violence and allow the commission to accept any gift, donation, or bequest for the purpose of performing their duties.
Who will be on this Commission? Members of organizations that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobby for gun control here in Connecticut. Representatives from organizations like CT Against Gun Violence and Mothers United Against Gun Violence.
This bill will declare that gun violence constitutes a public health crisis and will continue to constitute to be a public health crisis until their goal are attained, it will establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
Brooke Cheney, a firearms instructor, member of the DC Project ensemble of super heroes #tealteamtwo, and host of a weekly podcast on Saturday evenings called “Suicide Prevention Saturday”, delivered an impassioned speech about why the proposed legislation should be at a minimum altered, if not completely reconsidered.
Some highlights of Cheney’s testimony:
I’m a firearms instructor, a mom, Assistant Director of the DC project and a victim of violent crime. I’m here today to voice my opinion against section seven of Bill 477. And Bill Number 5397. I am truly saddened by people’s choice to focus only on gun violence versus the violence that occurs long before someone picks up a gun. Guns do nothing. They are pieces of metal, people cause violence. Per my written testimony, 76% of violent crime in Connecticut is without a gun, according to our Uniform Crime Report. Why would we look only at 24% of violent crime. A mother who loses her child to an errant bullet suffers no less than a mother who loses her child from a gang beating my distress and opposition over this bill is that it doesn’t do enough and is too myopic…
The obsession with guns versus violence keeps us away from addressing the root cause of violence. The gun community is the most giving and have some of the biggest hearts you will ever find. We are heavily involved in safety training veterans suicide prevention programs, and many community based programs. Imagine what would could happen if we’re able to work together two passionate groups working for the same cause violence prevention. Over the last decade, I have studied what really helps prevent violence. It is community based…
We have talked about a need for a holistic approach. I support that 100%. That would be including gun owners, not just people who see guns as killing machines. Violence is a problem and needs to be addressed. As long as you focus on the smallest portion, you’re going to get the smallest return on your investment. Please consider losing the gun specification in this bill and help people who are at risk of violence now. I thank you for your time.
Cheney also bared her soul in discussing a violent rape she was subjected to as a young teen.
And in my written testimony, one of the things I talked about is in SB 5397, how they talk about the mental health care for victims of gun violence. And one of my objections was effectful. What about those of us like me who are victims of sexual violence, because just like the story, you just told me, I have had, I had a, I was gang raped. And in when I was like, 13 – 14 years old. And just 10 years ago, I was in a diner with my family, and one of the men who had done that, to me as a child walked in and looked at me, and he smiled. I had no idea that fact of something that had happened so long ago would leave such a lasting scar. And this is why I wish we could actually expand the scope to take care of as many as possible that are victims of violence, and not just being myopic on gun violence.
Cheney also takes very seriously the subject of suicide and suicide awareness, as many do that support the Second Amendment. In her testimony she said:
And I just have to say on a personal note, for me, it’s like, the death toll in 2020 of 157 deaths in Connecticut is a problem. Absolutely. But there were 359, who died by suicide. And we’re talking about so many things that are happening all at the same time. And it’s really amazing how large the problem is, but at the same time, it really does come down to human basic needs.
Cheney takes this subject personally. In one of her more recent podcasts, she featured another familiar face to Bearing Arms; Sarah Joy Albrecht, the head of Hold My Guns, whose organization recently garnered some generous donations from industry members. It’s visionaries like Albrecht, Cheney, Sullivan, et.al. that bring to the table both holistic and outside-the-box thinking when it comes to solving these problems.
Following Cheney’s testimony and subsequent question and answer session, CCDL President Holly Sullivan (also a member of the DC Project on the Advisory Board) gave her testimony on the bills in question. Sullivan knocked it out of the park, leaving the committee with no questions that they wanted to ask. Sullivan’s succinct explanation left very little room for argumentation.
Selections from Sullivan’s testimony:
My name is Holly Sullivan and I am the president of the Connecticut citizens defense league. We are a nonpartisan grassroots organization with over 43,000 members devoted to advocating for the rights affirmed by the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the state of Connecticut. We are dedicated that these are individuals who own or have access to firearms. Our members are not immune to the loss and heartache of losing a loved one to violence of any nature, including suicide.
Going off script, that I will share with you that I’ve lost two people to suicide since I’ve lived in the state of Connecticut. One was due to a firearm and one was hanging. So we are not immune to this. We are very much as involved in this as anybody else’s in any other cross section of our state.
However, I would like to point out that Connecticut’s 2020 suicide rate is one of the lowest in the nation for the CDC. Our rates are lower than 40. For other states, including California, Illinois, Colorado and Virginia. I would encourage you to explore an approach taken by the legislature of the state of Washington, which established the Safer Homes coalition. The Safer Homes coalition is comprised of firearms retailers, health care providers, suicide prevention experts, as well as Second Amendment rights groups. Members further include law enforcement and veteran services. This cohesive approach reassures a balanced effort that truly focuses on the outcome of suicide prevention.
And I’d like to quote Safer Homes co chair Alan Gottlieb’s 2016 press release in which he wrote “Suicide prevention is not and should never be about gun control, but about saving lives and preventing tragedies.” People working together have a far greater chance of accomplishing something than working against one another.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League asks this committee to vote no on HB 5397 And SB 477. HB 5397 will create an unbalanced Advisory Council, which is disconnected from the very people who own and have access to firearms, no doubt leading to distrust and efficacy. As the state of Washington realized gun owners cannot be dismissed from the discussion on gun safety and suicide prevention. Gun owners must be adequately consulted and represented if there is going to be a genuine discussion on reducing deaths in our state, which was not the case and proposed bill, HB 5397.
Sullivan is no stranger to the pages of Bearing Arms, as she’s a powerhouse to contend with. Sullivan is the only seated member of the DC Project as a Selectmen in a local government, and the only female president (that I’m aware of) of a state level gun rights organization.
This is a perfect example of our Representative Republic in action with the People speaking out. Patriots like Sullivan and Cheney are making a difference in their jurisdictions. Whether or not they made an impact on the lawmakers, who really knows. But, their voices were at least heard, and by extension, the voices of the memberships they’re associated with. We’ll have to see what may come after all the dust settles on these matters.
Be sure to check out both Cheney’s and Sullivan’s speeches HERE or in the embed below.
The entire Zoom video of the public hearing can be watching HERE if you’re interested.