News Column

Conn. Survivors of Aurora Shooting Lobby for Gun Control Reform

Jan. 28, 2013

Jennifer Swift, New Haven Register, Conn.

Five months after he escaped being shot in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent felt the blood drain from his face when he saw an alert about another mass shooting, this time in Newtown.

Rodriguez-Torrent will testify Monday along with others, including friend Stephen Barton who was shot in the theater, before the state legislature's task force on preventing gun violence.

Barton and Rodriguez-Torrent both grew up in Southbury, a town adjacent to Newtown.

Barton said what he remembers most about the shooting was the darkness, the chaos and the steady report of a machine gun.

"It's not the movie theater. It's not the school. It's the gun. That's the issue," Barton said at a press conference held at the Legislative Office Building Sunday.

Barton and Rodriguez-Torrent were on a cross-country bicycling trip when they stopped in Aurora to visit a friend.

"People ask if I think it's following me. I was there when it happened in Aurora, and then it happened in the town right next to me.

"I don't think it is. It can happen anywhere, and that's what's so scary," Rodriguez-Torrent said.

The two men joined with Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel in Newtown and Lois Schaffer, whose daughter was killed by two men with guns four years ago, to say they hope to put a face on gun violence.

"I do not want to see families hearing such noise and falling to the ground and wailing anymore. ... We all want to be able to put our children on that yellow school bus and know that they will be safe.

"And right now just a bunch of different subjects in our society make that less and less certain," Praver said.

"There is too much of a culture of violence ... in our American country, and we can do so much better than that," he said.

No one in the group proposed banning guns altogether. Barton said he wants to see work done on the state and federal levels when it comes to making background checks more effective, calling them "Swiss cheese" now, with holes and missing information.

He also said Connecticut needs to "add teeth" to its assault weapon ban.

"We just have to do something. It's unacceptable to me that that we're still having this conversation after so many tragedies, but that's the thing, we have to keep pushing."

Praver said the way that guns are marketed and advertised to children is part of the issue.

"Guns are marketed like sugary sodas are marketed to children, to the youth. BB guns are made to look like these automatic guns so that after you get done with the thrill of shooting BBs, that you'll want to shoot real live ammunition, the big stuff," he said.

"It's too insidious in our culture. We're not even talking about taking guns away or anything like that; we're just talking about the insidious nature of guns penetrating the lives of even our young children."

Schaffer's daughter was killed while interrupting a robbery at her home. The single working mother wouldn't even let her children have water guns, she said.

"Since my daughter was shot I have said then that there was going to be something that was going to happen, that was going to catch the eye, the heart and the mind of people. This was it," she said, referring to the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Barton and Rodriguez-Torrent said being subjected to gun violence is something neither of them thought would happen. But now that it has, they want to be part of the cause that stops it.

"We've all read about these tragic shootings that seem to happen every few months now, and you never think you're going to be in that situation.

"I'm here to tell you that even when you're in that situation, you can't believe it's happening. ... I didn't think I'd ever be affected by gun violence, and what happened to me in Aurora was horrible, but then for five months later ... in the town I grew up right next to, I still can't believe it," Barton said.

"I'm really hopeful that these sorts of events will spur people to action that's long overdue."



Source: (c)2013 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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