Guest post by Martha Dean
It was a frigid Saturday afternoon in January in Connecticut. I hurried along the east side of the Capitol between the snow banks, bracing myself against the wind. It was already 1:15 pm, and I was late. Preparing my speech had taken longer than I intended. The gun rally started at noon. Pressing on around the corner, I was shocked to encounter a massive wall of people extending as far as I could see. It was a crowd so enormous that it overflowed from the Capitol’s steps in a solid shivering block of people sweeping across the large open terrace, its wide walkways, and flowing equally to the east toward me and west and north into the parking lot beyond. Rising far beyond the seemingly endless winter coats and parkas, the Capitol’s north steps were overflowing with organizers, speakers, supportive organizations, microphones, cameras and media.
I was incredulous. Here at the Capitol in the bitter cold there were thousands huddled tightly in an expansive living solid form. Attempting to stay warm they pressed together and forward trying to hear the speakers at the podium on the distant steps. I pushed my way bit by bit deep into the crowd. At last, I emerged, in front on the steps. As I climbed, the air felt different. It felt as if I was high on a hill –looking out over what seemed at that moment to be the entire people of State of Connecticut – a people finally stirred – a people finally awakened from a very long and deep sleep.
The rally was about guns – but of course it was really about Newtown. And, here I was — a woman, a mother. They would look to me to make sense of it all. I took a deep breath before heading to the podium. What is it that we mothers are expected to have? Loving common sense, yes, that’s it, I thought. Yet, the lack of it in Connecticut is now palpable. When did Connecticut mothers become a group that could be scared, controlled, and herded by politicians playing on their emotions to achieve political ends? When did Connecticut mothers unlearn the practical American lessons of ruggedness resourcefulness and independence of our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers in early New England and on the frontier?
Why, I wondered, did Connecticut mothers turn away from timeless practical skills such as teaching our children to respect guns and to know how to shoot safely for sport, hunting, or to protect their families? But then I thought, how many Connecticut mothers even require their children to learn to change a car or bike tire, unclog a drain, or chainsaw a tree fallen across a driveway? I took a deep breath. Gently, go gently, Martha. The people are awake, now — but you must not scare them.
I prayed quietly to myself “God, please give me the words. Please let me be understood.” I took a deep breath and started my speech, “We all grieve for Newtown – all of us.” I continued, with firmness and resolve, “But, mark my words. The risk we face is not that of losing another classroom of kids to a lone madman. No, the real risk we face is the risk of losing an entire generation of kids – the future of all kids in America – to the slave chains of debt and impending despotism.” I paused, groping for a sunny optimism, “Ronald Reagan said it best, ‘In a world wracked by hatred, economic crisis, and political tension, America remains mankind’s best hope.’” I asked, “What did he mean? … He was pointing out that we Americans have created something truly unique and unprecedented in the history of mankind – something that doesn’t just benefit us as Americans but — that benefits all – mankind.
Freedom, enshrined in law, in our Constitution — and a people willing to stand ready to fight to preserve it — whether against those usurping it from without or within.” The crowd went wild.
I said “No responsible gun owner in Connecticut – or in America – opposes firearms laws that are aimed at a true problem and that actually work to fix the problem… and do it without infringing on core – core – rights. But virtually every proposal now in circulation since Newtown violates one, or more, or all of these tenets. They violate the right to privacy. They violate the right of citizens to own effective modern firearms. They violate the requirement that laws be effective and actually serve their purpose and be aimed at a true problem.”
I asked, “What laws are we lacking that would protect children in a city like Chicago? We’re not lacking any. They all exist. And even if they were all enforced, which they are not, do you think they would protect the children? Absolutely not.” In Chicago, where handguns were banned altogether, murder rates skyrocketed making Chicago the murder capital of the nation. Criminals do not obey laws. More restrictive laws simply tie the hands of us – the vast law-abiding citizenry who wish to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors and live peacefully. “The only thing that stops a bad guy is a good guy with a gun.” Cheers and applause echoed off the fairy castle-like structure of the Capitol and across Bushnell Park.
“What is the real risk of a child being shot in most of our schools in America?” I asked. “It is virtually zero. Virtually zero… Your children are more at risk of dying of food poisoning … than from a lone madman with a gun.” Closing, I implored the crowd, “Let’s make sure that we all – our legislators, the media … and those who support the second amendment – stay focused on the real risk before us: to protect our children, yes. But is it to protect our children from uncertain, unlikely, random events? Or, is it to protect them from the certainty of the twin slave-chains of government-imposed debt and emerging despotism? Let’s show that by fighting -– fighting — for our freedom that we are worthy of it. Let’s make our children, and future generations of Americans, proud.”
It was done, and I knew my words would be ignored by the media. They would never be heard by most citizens in Connecticut. But, to my amazement — after all of the years it seemed that I spent speaking to a slumbering citizenry here in Connecticut, thousands — thousands of people — had heard and they had clearly understood. I felt in my hand the slimmest thread of hope. Connecticut’s citizens are awakening, at last. If they could just hear the message, I now knew they would do the right thing.
Martha Dean is an attorney in private practice in Avon, Connecticut. She was the Republican nominee for Connecticut Attorney General in 2002 and 2010.
I’ve included Martha’s full speech from that day for your viewing pleasure.