Congregations say they do not stand idly by for gun violence

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NEW HAVEN -- Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut - or CONECT - is a multi-faith, grassroots organization, that works to make their community better. At their spring assembly Thursday night, they asked political leaders to join them in their fight against gun violence.

A long time CONECT leader, Odell Cooper, recently lost her son to gun violence. On April 23, John Cooper, while waiting at a red light in Hamden, was shot and killed.

"We mourn with John's family," said Anne Watkins, from Congregation B'nai Israel who calls Cooper a dear friend. "In the Jewish tradition of mourning, we do not leave those in the midst of their grief and suffering to stand alone. As a community, we come together, to hold those who are mourning. And as a community, we must say enough."

CONECT'S strategy on gun violence is called 'Do Not Stand Idly By.' Part of the strategy is to press gun makers to research and produce safe gun technology. Another part of the strategy calls on government agencies which purchase guns, to use their collective buying power to pressure the fire arm industry to develop safe gun technology.

"Just this past Friday, President Obama announced that the federal government will be drawing up specifications for smart and safe gun technology, that the federal government agencies, and military, might begin to buy," said Rev. Anthony Bennett of Mount Aery Baptist Church. "An indication that they are seriously asking the industry to innovate. That's a big deal y'all! We need to celebrate that."

During the assembly, held at St. Rose of Lima Church, in New Haven, they also engaged with New Haven Schools Superintendent, Garth Harries. They asked for improvements at Fair Haven elementary school. Among the improvements, they are seeking improved school security, translators for parents at parent-teacher conferences, and moderating discipline strategies for younger children.