‘Guns in America’ discussion touches home at Fairfield U.
FAIRFIELD — Shamare Holmes, a community organizer and member of the Bridgeport Education Association, has experienced the lasting impacts on gun violence from an early age.
“I’ve always been involved (in the community) but now, being at this age, where I’m confident enough to share this story and I’m emotionally able to get through it ... I think it’s key to be at these meetings,” Holmes said at a Monday roundtable discussion at Fairfield University, citing that Bridgeport has seen seven homicides in 2019 alone.
Holmes noted that Bridgeport — the most populated city in the state at nearly 150,000 residents — lacks many of the resources that help students and victims cope with the lingering effects of gun violence.
It’s against an impressive backdrop mural, part of a TIME magazine and photographer JR’s project, that individuals shared their stories and engaged in a conversation about gun culture and legislation in America with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy.
The discussion was part of the Quick Center’s look into gun culture in America, with the free and open installation of “Guns in America: A TIME and JR Production” until April 18 and “gUN COUNTRY, A Theatrical Exploration of Firearms in America” performance scheduled for April 16 at 8 p.m.
“It’s an important discussion and this is a platform using the arts,” Helen During, co-founder and artistic director of #UNLOAD, a group that aims to reduce gun violence in the country, said at the event. “We want to make make America a safer place.”
Mary Himes, co-founder and executive director of the same group, prompted the nearly 60 attendees gathered around a table to voice their thoughts and concerns regarding gun violence, ownership and rights.
Murphy highlighted the changes at the state level and also mentioned the debate and legislation at the national level had shifted in “the right direction.”
“We’ve taken courageous steps in Connecticut and we’ve got a long way to go. We’re proof that smart laws work, we’ve seen a 40 percent reduction in gun crimes,” Murphy said.
Westport Chief of Police Foti Koskinas, when asked about his thoughts on the gun topic, recounted his first episode with a firearm — shooting a gun at age 14 at a friend’s house in Westport.
“The father really thought the gun was secure,” Koskinas said. “If that doesn’t scare you, it certainly scares me as a parent of teenage daughters right now. If your children are going on a first playdate, please, don’t hold back and ask if the parents have a gun in their home or if they’re secure.”
Koskinas also reflected on his past, like when he bought a gun with a high-capacity magazine at age 18, acknowledging he did so because he could.
The event attracted members from various advocate groups including Moms Demand Action, #UNLOAD and 203 Action.
John Walsh, a former Emergency Medical Technician in Albany, N.Y., had cousins attending Sandy Hook Elementary at the time of the 2012 shooting. As someone who had lived through that, Walsh felt it was important to underscore responsible gun ownership.
“I’m a gun owner. I own multiple firearms,” Walsh said. “Seeing all this violence in the world, in my mind, at least, it doesn’t help me or my family one bit when we completely disarm ourselves and bury our heads in the sand...I think gun ownership is incredibly important.”
Following the event’s conclusion, Holmes said while discussion is helpful, what matters are not words but actions.
“After that energy goes, are you really about the work or are you about the moment? Or are you really trying to resolve something?,” Holmes said.