After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the state passed a law banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Twenty children and six teachers were killed, a moment that President Obama has called the worst day of his presidency. Many in Newtown are still reeling from the shooting and discussing how to prevent future tragedies. But a whole new debate has started thanks to local grocery chain Caraluzzi's. Many residents were surprised to learn recently that customers are allowed to openly carry guns in its stores, a policy that has inspired a deeply divided response. People have taken to Caraluzzi's Facebook and Yelp pages to express both displeasure and satisfaction with the store's policy. But what's been lost in the discussion is that online outrage probably won't change it — and it definitely won't affect state laws, either. I scrolled through several reviews that have been posted to the store's page and reference the open-carry policy. I'd hoped to speak with Newtown residents on both sides of the issue who had posted reviews of the store. However, most of the pro-open carry people I reached out to didn't respond to me, and the ones who did don't live near Newtown (and thus don't shop at the Newtown Caraluzzi's store regularly).
Dana Jonson, an attorney who lives in Bethel, CT, just outside Newtown, doesn't support the open-carry policy. She says she believes people promote open-carry laws for "purposes of intimidation," which she doesn't feel is appropriate at a family grocery store. "My first thought was that this is not a safe environment," she tells Refinery29, adding that if she were at a grocery store and saw someone openly carrying a weapon, she'd leave the premises.
The thing that surprised me is that, given that we're just up the road...from where we had such a huge tragedy, that people are still so vociferous in their support of weaponry and open-carry.
Sharon Monteith, Bethel resident
Jonson says that after posting an argument against the policy on Facebook, she received threatening comments from other users, many of them quite explicit. "I've received some pretty disgusting comments," she says. Sharon Monteith, an account manager at a telecom company and a Bethel resident, echoes Jonson's thoughts. Monteith tells Refinery29 that she was "saddened and disappointed" to learn about Caraluzzi's policy. "I think the thing that surprised me is that, given that we're just up the road, basically, from where we had such a huge tragedy, that people are still so vociferous in their support of weaponry and open-carry," Monteith says. Monteith says she doesn't believe Facebook will change most people's political opinions, especially on guns, but that it's still important to open the conversation, both online and offline.
"People need to take it a notch up, off of Facebook," Monteith says. The Facebook discussion of Caraluzzi's open-carry policy has brought plenty of non-residents into the conversation, but the acrimonious debate doesn't help Newtown residents, many of whom are still dealing with the aftermath of the shooting. During our conversation, Jonson mentioned the possibility of the Connecticut Food Association (CFA) creating a statewide standard for grocery stores' open-carry policies. Wayne Pesce, the CFA president, tells Refinery29 that many advocacy groups have approached the CFA about the issue. While the CFA will work with individual stores to create crisis-management protocols, the organization also recognizes Connecticut law, Pesce explains. "We will lead the discussion, and they will make the decisions individually," Pesce says. He encourages activists to contact state legislators, because the open-carry issue extends further than grocery stores. Real progress will come from work between constituents, legislators, and specific businesses and companies — not just via Facebook posts. Refinery29 has reached out to Caraluzzi's corporate office for comment and will update this story when we obtain a response.