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Let the Gun Control Debate Begin

Governor Malloy’s State of the State address, the appointment of the Sandy Hook commission and the opening of the new legislative session marked the official start to the debate that will inevitably result in new gun control legislation for Connecticut.

This past week, I sat on the floor of the House for Governor Dannel Malloy’s State of the State address at the invitation of State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143).  The room was energized with the knowing smiles of campaign veterans and giddy, apple-cheeked newbies ready to put long-promised campaign ideals into practice. 

Gov. Malloy spent several choked-up minutes speaking about Newtown, the newly appointed Sandy Hook commission and the need for gun control. And although his speech was pretty darned light on the details of how to move the Connecticut economy forward (he actually spent more time waving the flags of accomplishment), he did get the soundbite of the day when he observed that the answer to the gun violence problem is not more guns.

Last week, and how to best respond to it. Most reader comments—and I read every single one, even if I don’t always respond—were insightful and rational.

Because Patch In and Patch Back are meant to encourage local debate about the issues of the day, rather than reply to each thread I decided to incorporate readers’ comments here:  

  1. Many asked, "Could someone please explain how mental health evaluations will stop crime?" The Sandy Hook assassin used guns taken from his mother, who acquired her weapons legally and presumably would have passed a mental health background check.
  2. Some said, "Maybe the answer to gun control IS more guns." No one talks about the number of people whose lives were saved after an armed citizen took out an unsuspecting attacker. Perhaps trained-and-packing staff could prevent future tragedies.
  3. Others observed, "Are you crazy? No one should have a gun except for members of law enforcement or the military, period." Do you really think your handgun or shotgun is going to keep you safe in the unlikely event the U.S. government storms your house?
  4. And finally: "A killer with conviction will still find a way to kill, gun or no gun." Remember Oklahoma City?

Many readers used statistics to solidify their points, the details of which I did not verify and will not report here. But lest this debate become a retread of I’ll see your safe and legal gun ownership statistic with an equally persuasive gun violence statistic and raise you with a heartbreaking anecdote, let us stop and reflect on some additional considerations.

First, as of this writing, there has been no credible information on the medicine the Newtown shooter may have been taking. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that he was, obviously, mentally ill. What, if any, treatments were made available to him? Did he engage in or refuse treatment, and why?

Second, law-abiding, gun-owning citizens are exposed to the same violent movies, video games and news every day that gun-owning criminals are. Nevertheless, most gun owners are able to resist these violent influences and make it through their lives without committing horrific crimes (or having their weapons stolen for the purpose of committing horrific crimes). Does this fact render the cultural influence argument moot?

Third, shouldn't the purpose of this legislation be to reduce violence in all its forms, not just reduce the number or type of guns sold in Connecticut? And if that is the case, don't we need to address the serious mental health treatment issue in this country?

The ugly truth is that any current or future Connecticut gun control legislation, no matter how strict, is impotent if a crazed person decides to commit a mass killing. Securing a weapon, is, apparently, a simple matter for a determined criminal.

The nature of these tragedies is such that civilized society is compelled to act. And yet, this compulsion to “do something” often results in feels-good, does-nothing, time-squandering legislation.   

The gun control debate, up until now, has always resulted in a stalemate because both sides are well armed (no pun intended) with equally persuasive statistics and advocates. Nevertheless, the Second Amendment is clear: the people have the right to keep and bear arms and the Supreme Court of the United States has twice ruled in recent few years to uphold #2.

As a result, our best approach is de-stigmatizing psychological illness to encourage family members to seek help for those who need it most and by making that help readily available. Perhaps we should make a thorough mental health evaluation part and parcel of the well visit (let’s put Obamacare to work!). We should also implement an “if you see something, say something” approach to potential public safety threats.

Just to be clear, I’m no mental health expert. But the approaches we’ve used thus far clearly aren’t working. Anyone who would attack a school, or a movie theater, or a military base, or a mall, or an office is clearly in need of treatment.

Finally, let us remember that more legislation is only better legislation if it provides real value and lasting positive change.

Jeff January 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Great column Lisa! You speak rationally with a cool head. Sadly my guess is the populist mentality stoked by the nonstop propaganda of gun control will win out particularly in the bluest of blue states. Let's hope there's at least some public debate/input before any legislation is rammed through like in NY. Common sense would realize that nothing short of the complete outlawing of firearms in complete violation of the 2nd Ammendment would have had any influence on what happened in Newtown. Stop thinking otherwise folks. If he walked into that school and killed a single person with a steak knife would that family's heart be any less broken than if it had been done with a gun and to more people? Would we then be compelled to outlaw steak knives? And the bottom line is a criminal is going to still get his hands on guns or steak knives for that matter regardless of the mandate of rules placed on law abiding citizens. You see criminals have this odd approach to laws, they don't care! An aside, it is utterly outrageous that this governor would have the audacity to in any way praise himself when it has anything to do with fiscal matters. Hilarious!!!
Jeff January 16, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Oh and another thing. Any new regulation in the state will I'm sure come with a price tag to us the citizens. All this is is a very convenient ploy for some additional "revenue" that they'll ultimately piss away. But you're not going to hear that from any of them nor the disgustingly liberal media.
Leah Salomoni (Editor) January 16, 2013 at 08:02 PM
"That column actually seems rather reasonable. A pleasant change from the majority of recent media bleatings. Nice job." - Marc Bisaha (Comment transferred from Shelton Patch Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SheltonPatch)
MAC January 16, 2013 at 09:11 PM
People in CT concerned for self-defense be warned: The majority of gun-related legislation that has been introduced is an affront to our constitutional rights as law-abiding citizens. This unfortunate theme is epitomized in Senate Bill 122, introduced by Senator Edward Meyer (D-12). SB 122 seeks to prohibit the purchase, sale, donation, transportation, possession and use of any firearm except one designed to fire a ^^single round^^!! If enacted, SB 122 will only render law-abiding citizens and their families as defenseless victims. Firearms designed to fire more than a single round are overwhelmingly the most commonly owned firearms for self-defense and home protection, recreational and competitive target shooting, marksmanship training, and/or hunting. This arbitrary and unconstitutional legislation will only victimize law-abiding citizens in Connecticut, and leave them vulnerable to the criminal who will never comply with a gun control law to only possess a firearm that only fires a single round. Please contact your state legislators (ct.gov--click on "legislature") and encourage them to stand up for freedom and protect your Right to Keep and Bear Arms this legislative session. SB 122 is just one of dozens of misguided anti-gun bills that have been introduced that will penalize only law-abiding citizens in Connecticut. Note that Sen. Meyer has also introduced a bill to legalize "Assisted Suicide"!! Typical heartless liberal insanity--both of these!

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