Families of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting last December are gathering online signers to a petition asking Connecticut legislators to block the release of gory crime scene photographs and other evidence.
The petition, posted on Change.org, had more than 50,000 signers Monday evening.
It asks state lawmakers “to pass a law that would keep sensitive information, including photos and audio, about this tragic day private and out of the hands of people who’d like to misuse it for political gain.”
A bill backed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, would allow law enforcement officials to withhold from the public evidence from the mass shootings Dec. 14, in which 20 first-graders and six educators died, unless the families give written permission. The bill also would limit disclosure of the death certificates of those killed to immediate family members.
The petition lists the families of eight of the victims as sponsors.
Media groups and advocates of public records laws have voiced concerns that the legislation would harm government transparency and set a bad precedent by exempting specific incidents from freedom of information laws. They say it would encourage other crime victims to ask the state to limit disclosure of records now routinely released to the public and make the Newtown deaths seem more important than the dozens of others in the state each year.
Petitioners Nicole and Ian Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed at the elementary school, said in a statement released by Change.org that they do not want to see the photos of Dylan or hear 911 recordings of the response to the shootings.
“I want to preserve his memory as a beautiful boy -- not as a gun-riddled corpse,” Nicole Hockley said in a posting on the petition website. “I also do not want his brother Jake to see these photos or listen to the execution of his brother, friends and teachers on 911 tapes.”
Tricia Pinto, whose son Jack died in the shootings, said the photos and recordings “serve no purpose to the public but will cause a lifetime of agony to our families, our surviving children and the town.”
The state’s Legislature is scheduled to end its session Wednesday.
The Society of Professional Journalists and other media groups have written to Malloy opposing the legislation.
“If you hide away documents from the public, then the public has no way of knowing whether police … have done their jobs correctly,” said Sonny Albarado, city editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and board president of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Associated Press contributed