Lawyers in New London are getting involved in something they don’t do every day — getting guns off the street.
A gun buyback program has been launched by the New London County Bar Association that is aimed at reducing gun violence in the shoreline community.
Dan Horgan, a personal injury lawyer in New London, said he and another attorney who is on the bar association’s executive board, Amity Arscott, decided the program would also be a good way for the bar to pay tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Under the program, law firms, businesses and individuals are being asked to pledge a certain amount that will be used by New London police to buy unwanted guns. Horgan said the bar association hopes to raise $25,000 through its 200 members.
“There’s been some criticism that gun buybacks don’t reduce violence,” Horgan said. “But the way I look at it, if it reduces unwanted guns, people that just don’t want them in their homes whether it’s in the wake of Newtown or just an uneasy feeling they have, any little bit might help keep people safe. The guns are legal, but maybe there’s someone in their family struggling with mental health issues and the parents decide its not a good idea to have guns in the home.”
Chuck Norris, who is president of the New London bar association, a law firm partner and a probate judge in Windsor, is also a lifelong National Rifle Association member. He said the bar leadership discussed the idea and agreed it was worth pursuing. “There was really no heated discussion about it,” he said.
Lawyers will not handle the guns or the money during the drive, which will be conducted in March by the New London police. During a time period yet to be determined, people will be invited to bring their unloaded and secure weapons to the police. In exchange for assault weapons, they will be paid $150. Handguns will fetch $100 and rifles $75.
“All of the guns will be destroyed by police,” Horgan said.
Although word of the drive was just beginning to spread last week, the idea was apparently being well-received by bar association members. Ralph Monaco, a partner with Conway, Londregan, Sheehan & Monaco in New London said his firm was holding a meeting to discuss how much it might pledge.
“We’re looking forward to taking part in it,” said Monaco, a former Connecticut Bar Association president.
It’s not the first time that a group of lawyers have joined a gun buyback program, although it might be the first time a county bar association group has led such an effort.
Several law firms are participating in gun buyback programs in Bridgeport and New Haven that were launched in response to the Sandy Hook school shootings. In Bridgeport alone, more than 600 guns have been collected since December in an ongoing effort. Another 65 guns have been collected in New Haven.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Fitch credited several law firms, including Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, Stratton Faxon, Pullman & Comley, and Berchem, Moses & Devlin with helping to spearhead fundraising. Along with Cigna, PSEG (Public Service Electric and Gas), Bridgeport Hospital and other corporate sponsors, more than $150,000 was raised for the Bridgport program.
Mike Stratton, a partner in New Haven’s Stratton Faxon, which helped organize the Bridgeport and New Haven buyback programs, said the concept was part of the firm’s “three-pronged approach in response to the Newtown tragedy.”
The firm has also been active in lobbying state lawmakers for stricter gun control initiatives and working with the Department of Children and Families to connect at risk children with mentors. “The more we can get involved in the social fabric of our community, the less likely these things [like Newtown] are going to happen,” Stratton said.
For New London attorneys like Horgan, the gesture of doing something to support the victims in Newtown is important. “Everyone was affected,” Horgan said. “We all felt the sting of that tragedy.”•