Just under two years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, one group is putting pressure on firearm manufacturers to curb gun violence.
A new national initiative, known as “Don’t Stand Idly By,” seeks to circumvent a gridlocked Congress in its efforts to reduce gun-related deaths across the country. Instead of promoting new legislation, a coalition of public leaders, including police, government officials and clergy members, hope to directly target gun manufacturers to reduce the misuse and spread of illegal firearms. The nationwide effort is headed by Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a faith-based community organization that seeks to promote broad social reforms. Ten states, in addition to Washington, D.C., currently feature networks of citizens committed to this initiative.
By leveraging the buying power of the public sector, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of all firearm purchases, these gun control activists hope to pressure gun manufacturers into not only reviewing their distribution methods, but also into introducing new technologies that keep children safe. Such technologies include “smart” guns that require fingerprint identification and thus ensure that only the registered owner is able to fire the weapon.
“Anytime you deal with guns and gun legislation, it’s like a minefield for politicians,” said Pastor Timothy Jones — a leader of the Community Baptist Church in New Haven who has helped spearhead the initiative in the Elm City. “Dealing directly with the manufacturers cuts out the middle man … it’s when you really start affecting money and capital that things really begin to change.”
Jones is a member of Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, an affiliate of Metro-IAF that was responsible for an initial “request for information” from gun manufacturers across the nation. By requesting information from major producers such as Glock and Colt’s Manufacturing Company, CONECT hopes to spark public discussion about the ways in which these companies could contribute to increased gun safety.
According to the “Don’t Stand Idly By” website, one way the campaign hopes to stem the spread of illegal guns is by ensuring that manufacturers distribute their firearms only through responsible dealers. This involves strictly monitoring sales and training employees to detect “straw dealers” — individuals who buy guns and then distribute them to those involved in criminal activities. Additionally, “Don’t Stand Idly By” hopes to encourage investment in new gun safety technologies.
Ron Pinciaro, Executive Director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, noted that, although he had not been directly involved in the initiative, it appears to be making headway in Connecticut.
Specifically in New Haven, Jones said that Mayor Toni Harp recently signed on as one of the supporters backing the request for information proposed by CONECT. In particular, he noted that the initiative has been well-received by congregations in the city, many of which have had members that have been personally affected by gun violence. In 2013 alone, there were 67 shootings in New Haven.
Yet not everyone agrees this initiative is the best way to stem the flow of illicit firearms. Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, argued that, by forcing manufacturers to incorporate new safety measures, the initiative might limit the access to firearms for average citizens.
“If they start banning traditional firearms it’s a very dangerous thing. It just puts more control into the hands of the people that shouldn’t have them and it takes them away from the people that should have them,” Wilson said.
Instead, Wilson suggested, Connecticut should enact stricter penalties against those who possess illegal firearms.
In 2013, 18 people were killed in shootings in New Haven.