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Let CT's 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.

Lisa Bigelow January 16, 2013 at 11:50 PM
All, Thanks for reading and commenting. Ken, I agree that comparisons to Nazi Germany are inflammatory and unfair. No one, even President Obama, has said that the government is going to confiscate weapons. But stricter laws will rule the day, as we saw this morning. Thanks again. Lisa
Ken January 17, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Steve, The phrase 'Never Again' is a phrase used by a nation state, the state of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole as a national/international statement of deterrence. This is not a statement of individuals and guns. It does not imply the use of small arms or even limit to what are called conventional weapons. That phrase is also not meant to be viewed as a limiting statement of defensive only actions. It also implies the possiblity of taking proactive measures to neutralize a potential threat. The statement is also a subtle warning to Israel's enemies in the region that Israel might and likely does have a deep and robust second strike triad based strategic military capability. Another words, would an enemy of Israel be willing to risk the consequences of an attack against Israeli civillians? The consequences for an attacker could be extremely negative, catastrophic, history changing and life altering.
Steven DeVaux January 17, 2013 at 08:42 PM
And just so folks know, insurers know about you through the DNA of your relatives. Don't believe it? "Genetic information stored anonymously in databases doesn't always stay that way, a new study revealed, prompting a debate on how much privacy participants in scientific research can expect in the Internet era. Tension has long existed between the need to share data to drive medical discoveries and the fact many people don't want personal health information disclosed. The growing use of genetic sequencing makes this even more challenging because genetic data reveals information not only about an individual, but also about his or her relatives. Read the full article at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323783704578247842499724794.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
Steven DeVaux January 17, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Ken, It's also used by the JDL and is, in my opinion, a good stance and I support it wholeheartedly. The important observation to note I think is this and I think almost all are blind to it - those who have nothing to lose, have nothing to lose...and nothing restraining them. That's the heart of the problem and dilemma. They have to have enough to "lose" in the game (and believe it) in order to not pursue the option. We all have something to lose...what if they are placed in a position where they don't? What then. What if they develop the calous of "Who cares?". While the consequences of attacking pose the elimination of one's self, are they prepared - as the Japanese Kamakazi's were - to die for a belief? Don't say people don't. That's denying the fact that there are folks out there that do. The answer lies in giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams of life ... less they pursue the alternate venue where all lose - which intheir mind makes them finally an equal. While "Never Again" is associated with the Jewish State, a holocast is something that society should cry out Never Again at regardless of who, or what group or what peoples. It is humanity's cry. We all bleed.We need to teach those who forget that they are us.
Kevin January 19, 2013 at 12:52 AM
As a non-gun owner I feel that i would fight for your right to have a gun. Just like i would fight for your right to free speech. Don't take rights away from people.

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