On Valentine’s Day, at least three buses — with room for more than 50 people each — will depart Wilton for the March for Change, which is expected to draw thousands to the state Capitol in a rally for stricter gun control legislation. The event is spearheaded by Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
A Wilton contingent of the organization, led by Lucy Davies and Harrison DeStefano, have been planning for the event for several weeks. A core group met for an organizational meeting on Jan. 22, and several members ran a bake sale at the Village Market on Jan. 26.
“We had an incredible response from that,” Ms. Davies said. “It was so shockingly successful. We raised $1,500 in four hours.”
“It was so cold” that day, she recalled. “People stood outside, others baked like you wouldn’t believe. The response from the community was exactly the same. There were $50 bills in there and groupings of 20s. People were just making donations. The main idea was ‘yes, I want to contribute and be a part of this.’
“It was a very positive community experience.”
The group will use the money for things like postcards, signs and a banner. The group will also sponsor people who cannot afford the $26 bus ride to the march. Any money that isn’t used for the march will be donated to Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Ms. Davies said.
The March for Change movement was initiated by two Fairfield 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 grass-roots 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 addition to Wilton, buses will be leaving from about 17 other towns throughout the state including Fairfield, Monroe, Easton, Trumbull, Darien/Rowayton, Greenwich, Stamford, Westport, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Redding, Danbury, Ridgefield, Madison, Litchfield, Warren and Kent.
March for Change’s organizers assert their support for the Second Amendment. But they said “assault weapons” should not be permitted.
“Newtown has been a tipping point for many,” Ms. Staunton said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised to have the support of people who are gun owners and who may not have supported stricter gun legislation in the past.”
However, in order for change to happen, a “critical mass” needs to show up in Hartford Feb. 14, they said.
“We also need people to write to their legislators and we need them to be ready to make a sustained commitment to this cause,” Ms. Lefkowitz said. “We know that 1,000 turned out for a recent pro-NRA rally, so we have to at least double that. If the NRA is coming out loud, we have to be louder.”
That said, they’re also pleased by the show of support the cause has inspired so far.
“We’ve been in awe of the all of these incredibly passionate supporters that have turned up,” Ms. Staunton said. “There’s a fervor to get something done and we feel like we have to seize this opportunity.”
March for Change was born in Ms. 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, 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. Mr. Pinciaro also spoke in Wilton, at the invitation of the Domestic Violence Task Force.
Ms. Staunton said they hope 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,” Ms. Lefkowitz said. “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 is at cagv.org.