At Forum On Gun Violence, Legislators Ask Hartford Residents For Solutions
Sandy Hook Mother Says All Victims Deserve Attention
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
February 27, 2013
HARTFORD —— Nelba Marquez-Greene was not the only mother with a grieving heart who spoke at Wednesday night's forum on gun violence.
But Marquez-Greene, who grew up in Hartford, knows that the public outpouring over her loss has dwarfed the reaction to deadly shootings on city streets. Her 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace, was one of 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
"There've been news crews at the house," Marquez-Greene told about 70 people gathered in the pews at Faith Congregational Church on Main Street. "We've gotten a lot of attention. My daughter was beautiful, kind, smart, loving."
And so were other young victims who have been fatally shot across the country, she said. "This happens all the time and nobody talks about the mothers in Chicago. Nobody talks about the mothers in L.A. Nobody talks about the mothers in Hartford. ...
"I was embarrassed at the attention, to be honest with you, that I was receiving for my daughter by virtue of where I live," Marquez-Greene continued, as Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman stood beside her. Cheers from residents began to drown out her words as she said, "Because if Ana had been shot on Garden Street..."
Democrats Douglas McCrory and Brandon McGee, state representatives whose districts include Hartford's North End, organized Wednesday's forum in response to Sandy Hook. The governor has proposed sweeping gun control legislation and lawmakers are expected to vote on a plan this spring.
McCrory and McGee, members of the Black and Latino Caucus, said they wanted to hear "solutions" from residents who have seen the violence in their neighborhoods before taking a stance on specific proposals.
State and local politicians, law enforcement leaders and Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto were among the listeners in the church. They heard from Carolyn Cook, a member of Mothers United Against Violence, who spoke angrily into the microphone, as if to settle a score.
When people were dying in Hartford, "nobody from the Capitol came out — except when they want a vote," Cook said. "I'm gonna be real ... Because when you're losing loved ones, and you have to bury them the best way you can, it's not a game."
Marquez-Greene, who has worked as a therapist, said one goal of the Sandy Hook Promise group is advocating for mental health services. Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School down the street, said education was crucial and demanded that the city shut down its failing schools.
"We need to crack down on the gun owners," said Nicole Ruffin, whose teenage son, Quintton Thompson, was shot to death in Bloomfield nearly two years ago. "You own it, you need to be responsible for it" if the gun ends up in the wrong hands.
But Warren Hardy Jr., a former gang member who now tries to steer young Hartford men away from violence, said the community needed to step up. If laws are created because of Sandy Hook, "so be it," Hardy said, "but stop looking for help when we can help ourselves."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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