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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.

***

Concerned Parent & Gun Owner January 18, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Dan - people want to focus on the implements because it is easy to do so. Demonizing the tools allows some to ignore who wielded them or how easily he circumvented the physical barriers between him and their children. Nealy all of e mass murderers have been white or Asian males between 15 and 25, why? Almost all of these boy and young male killers have been in contact with the mental health system or should have in hindsight. Why? Many of theses killers were either taking or had taken doctor prescribed psychotropic drugs prior to their rampages. Was this a factor? Many were heavy players of violent video games and/or consumers of violent media before the massacres. A factor? What have we done to our young men to create such disregard for fellow humans? Extending this to the inner city and we see similar patterns that lead to significant street violence. But yet we focus on the guns which are no more than tools or implement space in the wrong hands and driven by the wrong motives. But it is easy to focus rage and feelings of impotence on guns, the so-called "gun culture", the NRA, the Second Amendment, anything but the motives. Because to focus on the motives, all the suburban mommies now organizing against guns would have to acknowledge that they are not free of blame. Too many parents do not parent. Too many kids don't have two parents. Too many parents sit by while Junior plays games, sneaks into SAW movies and listens to degrading music.
Concerned Parent & Gun Owner January 18, 2013 at 02:09 AM
And, when Junior can't sit still at school or has bouts of melancholy or shouts out his frustrations, off the Dr. Feelgood and script of something to numb the troubled kid into submission. And when that begins to lose ista effectiveness, increase the dosage. But parents and society can not face that they are failing these kids. For 20 years all the focus has been on the "neglected" girls and schools and sports have been turned upside down to help girls with their self-esteem all the while forgetting the boys. We reap what we sow. And some reinforce our schools against intrusion. Cameras, thick glass, larger "Gun Free Zone" signs - all providing a false sense of security that our kids will be safe In an unsafe world. Yet, when a motivated and demented intruder easily breaches those low security barriers, we focus on the guns and the magazines because it is easy to do. Otherwise, we would have to acknowledge that our kids are not safe. That the demented don't care about "gun free zones" nor penalties for illegal gun or magazine possession. As a parent and gun owner I am demoralized that the proposals being suggested will do nothing to prevent the next shooting. Adan Lanza had two handguns with him so his having an AR15 was not critical since he would have still had the means to kill a score of kids. Yes, let's blame the guns and pass laws. And when the next one happens, pass more laws. What's that definition of "insanity" again!
Dan Lhotan January 18, 2013 at 08:54 AM
I agree. All this hype about "it's the guns fault" is crazy. Hey, if I was in that mental state and wanted to do something about it and could not get my hands on a gun I would either use a knife if it was easy getting into the school. Or use my car to do damage when kids are leaving. The point is having proper safe guards in place to deter and prevent. Are airports trying to limit people from having guns in the outside world? No. It is being prevented (and quite effectively) at the gates before boarding. And with armed personel even before that point. Once these sickos realize that I'll probably get stopped before I can get to the area where I can do the most damage he'll think twice.
Concerned Parent & Gun Owner January 19, 2013 at 03:18 AM
Dan - One unfortunate aspect of this debate was how quickly the head of the NRA was shouted down by the gun-controllers and others who do not see us as being under attack, yet. If Lanza had been named Johnnie Jihadi & was heard yelling "Alluha Akbar" as he killed 20 defenseless children & six women, our debate would be very different right now. At the moment, too many are attacking the implements (guns) because identifying the root causes too difficult, solutions too complex & there are no easy solutions. Instead, the professional gun controllers like Connecticut Against Gun Violence, pop up like herpes to take advantage of a stressed culture & run their anti-gun wish list in front of us saying "here is an answer". Tightening the assault weapon ban & reduce magazine capacities, may have an impact at reducing the degree of carnage during the next mass shooting but it will not prevent a mad man (or mad boy) from acting. Worse, in the name of "protecting the children", well-meaning people like those behind for March for Change have been convinced that magazine capacity limits are some sort of panacea and solution. It is not. But what about mitigating the bulk of gun violence that makes up all of the sad statistics we see? How will anything being discussed now reduce the death & injuries from suicide, accidents, known-shooters and criminal activity? Those cases are either single/couple of shots or the unlawful. Sorry, these are feel good measures at best.
Concerned Parent & Gun Owner January 19, 2013 at 03:32 AM
And let's put aside the ineffectual gun violence mitigation results that will come from this, what about the reduction in self-defense capabilities a reduce magazine capacity law would have on the law-abiding citizens? A 10 round limit means that some self-defense pistols will see their effective ammunition load reduced 20%, 50% or 80%. Over 300,000 Connecticut residents purchase modern, semi-automatic pistols of a design that accommodates more than 10 rounds for their designs. Now, this ineffective limit, will neuter those self-defense options. Sure, critics will scoff at the "need" for more than 10 rounds for self-defense but based on nothing. Most of those declaring what I need have never handled a firearm, never mind given thoughtful consideration to its purpose. Some tell me that Connecticut is safe and that we are safe in our homes. I always suggest that they search for "Connecticut home invasion" and tell me how many different events they find. It is frightening. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&q=connecticut+%22home+invasion%22&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.41248874,d.dmQ&biw=1199&bih=705&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=lw

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