Vermonter is close to the front on gun control
BARRE — A former Barre woman is in the center of the national gun debate, living one street away from the home of Sandy Hook, Conn., shooter Adam Lanza and working to organize supporters of increased gun control.
Po Murray was born in South Korea but moved to Plainfield and then Barre as a youngster. She graduated from Spaulding High School in 1985 and went on to the University of Vermont. She and her husband moved to Connecticut because, she said, they wanted to be near a city but were afraid to live in New York.
Her four children, now 11 to 18 years old, all went to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, the community where Lanza killed 27 others, including 20 young children, in December.
Murray said that tragedy compelled her to do something about gun violence. A self-described news junkie, she said she had seen an increase in mass shootings and was angry with herself for not speaking up about gun violence until it hit close to home.
In her effort to do something, Murray became a vice chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, a group of local residents who are trying to partner with other organizations working toward the same goal.
Murray said the group supports Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s recent proposal on gun control, which called for requiring background checks in all gun sales, strengthening the state’s existing assault weapons ban, banning ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, promoting secure gun storage and improving the enforcement of existing laws.
She said the group also supports Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s proposal for background checks on those looking to buy ammunition.
A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 93 percent of those queried in Connecticut support universal background checks for gun sales, including 89 percent of voters in households where there are guns.
To accomplish its goals and get the legislation it wants nationally, Murray said, her group is looking for other people and groups around the country that feel the same way it does. She encourages anyone in support of more gun control to contact her group and write to their local, state and federal representatives to let them know how their constituents feel.
Murray’s group is not without its detractors. She said Newtown is the home of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, which hosts one of largest gun shows in the country. She said it and the National Rifle Association are a well-oiled machine and get supporters to meetings and rallies with ease.
To those arguing against stricter gun legislation because it would supposedly infringe on Second Amendment rights, Murray said her group is not trying to take people’s guns away. She said she learned to shoot when she was in sixth grade and that her husband comes from a family of hunters.
She said she supports hunting and the right to protection but is not sure anyone needs the kind of weapon used by Lanza, the Bushmaster AR-15. The Hartford Courant reported last week that Lanza fired 152 shots in five minutes.
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