United Church of Christ minister the Rev. Matt Crebbin has reason to applaud Connecticut lawmakers for passing the toughest gun laws in the country, but he knows keeping schools and children safe is still a work in progress. Crebbin is the pastor of Newtown Congregational UCC in the small Connecticut town left stunned before Christmas by an elementary school shooting that claimed more than two dozen lives. He and other faith leaders in Newtown have been advocating for stricter gun legislation since, and see the new law as the first step in minimizing gun violence.
"We were pleased to see comprehensive gun safety legislation passed in Connecticut," Crebbin said. "I joined my fellow Newtown clergy, Sandy Hook Elementary School families and other concerned residents from Newtown to advocate for stricter gun safety laws in Conn. It was clear to us that laws which ban high-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons, as well as laws that establish universal background checks, can help to make our communities safer."
Connecticut's governor, Dannel Malloy, signed the bill into law Thursday afternoon after the state House approved the measure 141-55 earlier that morning. The law is considered by advocacy groups as the toughest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the United States. It bans the use of some high-powered weapons, the sale or purchase of high-capacity magazines, and requires background checks for all gun purchases.
The new law also adds more than 100 guns to the state's list of banned assault weapons, and limits the capacity of magazines to 10 rounds. Current owners of high-capacity magazines can keep them as long as they are registered with the state and are not loaded with more than 10 rounds outside their homes or at a gun range.
"While I feel that stricter gun safety measures were necessary, these new Connecticut laws are not sufficient in and of themselves to address the issue of gun violence in United States," Crebbin said. "I believe we all need to advocate for stronger gun safety measures similar to our new Conn. laws on the federal level. Gun trafficking does not recognize state or city boundaries."
The gunman at Newtown's Sandy Hook elementary school fired off more than 150 rounds from a high-powered assault rifle during the horrific five minute massacre. Since the Dec. 14 shooting that left 20 young children and six adults dead, three states (Connecticut, New York and Colorado) have passed tougher gun legislation.
In mid-March, Crebbin and other Newtown faith leaders wrote an open letter to U.S. Senators calling for stricter gun laws. The letter, which was also posted in Politco, gained more than 4,000 signatures from religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths in less than 72 hours.
"Even after passing very important federal legislation, we recognize that there will remain much work to do in our cities and towns to reduce violence and promote peace. Laws, while necessary, will never be enough," Crebbin said.
Malloy said he hopes Connecticut's new law will set an example for the nation as Congress considers federal legislation. President Barack Obama has spoken about the need for tougher laws, including at a recent event at the White House that several UCC leaders and pastors were invited to attend.
"It has been 45 years since the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. We have lost far too many of our leaders, friends, neighbors and children to gun violence," Crebbin added. "I would like to thank my fellow UCC clergy and member churches for [their] continued support and prayers. May we continue to promote those things that make for peace."