U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke about gun control on Friday, March 29, at a forum hosted by the Wesleyan Democrats (WesDems). Over the course of his talk, Blumenthal frequently evoked last year’s tragedy in Newtown, which brought the issue of gun control back into the national spotlight. But gun violence didn’t occur  just in catastrophic bursts—“Since Newtown, more than 2,500 people have died as a result of gun violence,” he reminded students—and he asserted that the conversation needed to keep going. Students filled Memorial Chapel to listen to Blumenthal’s speech and partake in a question and answer session.

“I am as much here to listen as I am to talk,” he said.

WesDems were happy with how the afternoon unfolded.

“I was pleased with the turnout at the event, considering it was a bit last-minute,” wrote former WesDems president Ben Florsheim ’14 in an email to The Argus. He estimated that approximately 100 students and faculty members were in attendance.

Assistant Professor of Government Logan Dancey introduced the Senator. Blumenthal’s speech addressed the implications of gun availability in the U.S.

“Senator Blumenthal’s visit was a unique opportunity for students to hear from someone who can help decide the future of gun policy in the United States,” Dancey wrote in an email to The Argus. “The action on gun control legislation right now is taking place in the Senate, so it was especially valuable to hear Sen. Blumenthal’s perspective on current policy proposals and their prospects for becoming law.”

Students enjoyed the chance to hear Blumenthal speak on the legislative aspect of gun regulation.

“I think most students agree with Senator Blumenthal’s liberal perspective, but he went into detail on the policy-process—something many students aren’t too familiar with, I would imagine—and explained why Congress has been experiencing such gridlock lately,” wrote WesDems former vice president Gabriela De Golia ’13 in an email to The Argus. “I would imagine that this was helpful and enlightening for many.”

Blumenthal discussed the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy and his experiences visiting the school soon after the incident.

“I appreciated that Senator Blumenthal felt comfortable elaborating on the standard Democratic talking points about gun control,” Florsheim wrote. “I think that part of that is the fact that the Sandy Hook shooting occurred in our state and he feels a little more strongly and directly than most politicians.”

Florsheim also noted that the Chapel setting fostered discussion.

“I also think that the format and academic environment made it easier to get away from the politics of it all and take a more honest, conversational approach to a loaded issue,” he wrote.

Blumenthal spoke about the ease of gun accessibility and its role in recent shootings.

“I think his main argument was that, while American citizens obviously have the right to bear arms, there are limits to that liberty,” De Golia wrote. “In the same way that there are restrictions placed on free speech (you can’t commit libel, for example), there should also be restrictions on the kinds of guns people are allowed to own.”

Students reported that Blumenthal’s speech became emotional, both for the audience and the Senator himself, when he spoke about the Newtown shooting.

“I thought his reactions to Newtown were particularly poignant,” WesDems President Michael Linden ’15 wrote in an email to The Argus. “You could sense the blurring of his roles as a father and lawmaker with the way he described the scene.”

The question and answer session following Blumenthal’s speech allowed students to participate in the discussion and voice their opinions.

“The students submitted excellent questions,” Dancey wrote. “As I have come to expect from Wesleyan students, the questions demonstrated an understanding of the important issues in the debate over how to reduce gun violence. [They] covered a variety of important topics, from the link between public opinion and congressional action to the potential stigmatization of mental illness.”

Linden agreed that students posed meaningful questions.

“The Wesleyan Democrats were thrilled to host such a prolific and dedicated public servant and very pleased with the student turnout and questions,” Linden wrote.

Students in attendance praised Blumenthal’s insights and enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the Senator.

“His convictions for what he believes in morally on the topic of gun control felt very sound to me, and some difficult questions that were posed to him were all answered fairly thoroughly,” Alton Wang ’16 said. “It was an excellent opportunity to hear a sitting senator come speak on what he is pursuing in Washington.”

Blumenthal’s talk is particularly relevant to this week’s events in Connecticut politics. On Wednesday, April 3, the Connecticut House and Senate passed a bill to increase gun control by increasing the number of banned assault weapons, banning large-capacity magazines with more than 10 bullets, and requiring background checks on sales of all guns in the state. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law on Thursday.

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