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Of Valentine’s Day, Love and Gun Laws

Columnist Heather Borden Herve takes a look at the new meaning Valentine’s Day will have for thousands in Connecticut this year.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

I love you so much,

I’m headed to Hartford on Valentine’s Day to try and make the world a safer place for you. 

Who would have ever thought that one of the ways I’d show my children how I love them is to try and change the world by raising my voice against gun violence. I wish this Valentine’s Day would simply be about packaging up store-bought valentines for them to bring into class and distribute to their classmates, or that all I’d have to do would be to make heart-shaped pancakes before sending them off to school.

But that was before, when sending children off to school meant that they would always come home safely. That was before Dec. 14, 2012, and the unimaginable events at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, when 20 sets of parents sent their 6- and 7-year-old children off to school and instead of coming home safely, those children and their heroic teachers were brutally shot and killed in their classrooms.

Life is now different and things have since changed. Like moms and dads and family and friends all over America, millions of us woke up on Dec. 15, 2012, as armchair activists no more. I’ll be marching on Thursday in Hartford with March for Change, as a love letter to my children, along with thousands of other like-minded Connecticut residents.

What we’re hoping to achieve is simple: to show state legislators that there are many of us who want safer gun laws enacted in Connecticut, and that it can be done so without sacrificing the Second Amendment. Universal background checks on ALL sales and transfers. A stronger assault-weapons ban. Limits on high capacity ammunition magazines.

The march starts at 11 a.m. at the State Capitol building in Hartford. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be there as well as legislators and elected officials from both political parties. There will be representatives from communities all over Connecticut who have experienced gun violence, as well as families of the Sandy Hook victims. Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre, and Stephen Barton, a Connecticut resident who survived the Aurora, Colo., shooting massacre will speak as well.

It will be multi-faith, bi-partisan and, hopefully, peaceful. Because that is ultimately what we’re marching for — less violence, more peace and safety.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

Guns kill.

My 10-year-old son will be marching at his first rally, joining many kids from around the state taking part. One of the activities leading up to Thursday’s rally was a fundraiser for a 9th grade social studies class from Bridgeport, which wanted to travel to Hartford in order to take part in the March for Change. These students have personal reasons for wanting to attend, as were clearly evident when they each answered the question that asked them how guns affected their lives:

"Guns have taken a close friend from me. Gun violence needs to stop because they are taking the lives of many innocent people and that is not fair. Guns are supposed to keep us safe, but they are doing the exact opposite," wrote one. 

"Guns actually have affected my privacy and freedom. For example, when I ask my mom if I can go to the movies and she says, "oh you can't go because they'll shoot you like the have done to the others." Then there is also the times when there are shoot-outs at Marina Village my mom will come into my room and sleep with me," answered another.

These children will learn that their voices and efforts can be put toward making change, toward impacting the legislative process, toward contributing toward democracy. Just as they’ve learned that there are harsh realities of life that happen to children — sadly, because of guns — so too will they be able to see that they are not powerless, and that there are adults who will advocate for them and help them learn how to advocate for themselves.

On the day of love, I will write a new love letter to my children, promising that a mother’s love knows no bounds, even when it means that protecting them means more than just kissing a scraped knee or making sure they bundle up against the cold. If it means we move mountains, if it means we march on Hartford, if it means we change history, then that’s what Valentine’s Day will now forever mean.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Onward to Hartford, because, simply,

I love you too much not to.

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