NEWTOWN, Conn. — Dozens of people joined an event Wednesday evening in Newtown that was part protest and part candlelight vigil.
The Newtown Action Alliance, which was formed after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, organized the rally to stand in support of the people of Las Vegas, which saw its own deadly mass shooting this week.
But the members of NAA also took the opportunity to call for tougher guns laws as they gathered on the curb in front of the headquarters of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Two juniors at Newtown High School — who serve as co-chairs of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance — attended to "bring the voice of the younger generation."
When he heard about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, "I was actually crying in homeroom," said Jackson Mittleman, 15. "I asked, 'When is our first event?' I needed to do something — I was inspired to work harder."
His co-chair Thomas Murray, 16, explained that the group backs what he called common sense gun laws.
"Guns are so easy to get and they're so dangerous — especially the assault rifles," Thomas said. "People who shouldn't have access to these kinds of weapons are getting them."
Denise Taylor of Newtown, a member of the NAA, came to the event with her dog Sumi, a Newtown Strong Therapy Dog.
"I was here during the Sandy Hook tragedy and lived through a lot with my community," Taylor said. "My heart goes out to the people of Las Vegas who are enduring this tragedy."
In 2012, 20 first-graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook. On Sunday, 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas shooter, who killed himself, was found with a large cache of ammunition and firearms. Officials said he used modified semi-automatic weapons outfitted with bump fire stocks that can simulate fully automatic fire as he took aim on a country music festival.
"I feel that automatic weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians," said Taylor. "This is not 'no guns,' it's not 'no Second Amendment,' it's let's find a sensible solution and make compromises for the common good."
Jackie LaBarre, a retired engineer from Bethel who is now a life coach and is studying to be a minister, said she has become more active in fighting for causes since the election of President Donald Trump.
"I'm just tired of no action on these assault rifles," LaBarre said. "I understand the Second Amendment, but I don't understand assault rifles."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which does not have a sign in front of its headquarters at 11 Mile Hill Road, posted a statement at its website. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those killed and injured in the criminal attack in Las Vegas," said the statement from the firearms industry trade association group.
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