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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.

Greg Burns January 22, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Time for citizens to disarm, violent crime is UP 17% nationally last year, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Dept. of Justice. They do their own studies because they know police reports and FBI reports quoted nationally are inaccurate because of unreported crime. However, police generated data reporting violent crime gowing DOWN is what is used by the liberal press and politicians. This report is a rare example of government correcting itself. Expect the violence to go higher. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4494 Bottom line they say your chance of being a victim of violent crime rose from 1.9 persons per 100 to 2.25 persons per hundred in 2011. That means randomly out of every 100 people who cross your path, AT LEAST 2.25 of them have a good chance of being beaten, robbed, raped molested or killed this year. A pleasant thought. It also means that ouut of every 100 people randomly who cross your path, 2.25 of them are criminals who would attack you given the opportunity. There were 5.8 MILLION violent crimes in America in 2011 with an increase of 17%. Divided evenly that is 116,000 violent crimes per state. Connecticut and America, do you feel safe now. How well are you protected by government. Time to disarm the citizens.
Greg Burns January 22, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Fascists (not fatists as referenced previously to the heads of our liberal establishment) Webster - "Philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leaders, subordination of the individual will and rights to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent. Martial virtues are celebrated, while liberal and democratic values are " disparaged". The government is not protecting it's citizens from violent crime. Federal prosecutions for gun crime under the Obama administration is down 40%. How well are they protecting you? Yet they want to restrict my rights to arm myself. But if I shoot someone for defending myself, they will be all over me. A client just called me to renew his Massachusetts permit. He was approached at a stop light last week and threatened with a demand for money in Hartford. He put his gun on the dashboard and told the guy to go away. The guy went away. He did not call the police because he was concerned he would be arrested for brandishing a weapon even though he has a Connecticut permit. He made a mistake because had the criminal complained to poiice - he would have been arrested. But that same criminal will threaten and rob others, and may likely harm them to get what he wants. This happens every day to citizens who defend themselves with firearms. He wants his daughter to get a permit to carry a gun, he is concerned she will become a victim. Is he wrong?
Lisa Bigelow January 23, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Thanks to all for your well-reasoned comments. Just wanted to let you know that I wrote a follow-up to this piece that is running this week. It's not yet on Newtown Patch but is currently on Wilton Patch. Feel free to comment and pass along: http://wilton.patch.com/articles/let-cts-gun-control-debate-begin-part-ii-03f80123
Greg Burns January 23, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Donald, I KNOW Mom of 2 is a loving and good person, and likely a fantastic mom. However, most like her have never experienced violence and think they are safe because of that, though it all around them. I strongly believe we will see increasing violence in America, so reports our Justice Dept. for 2011, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/press/cv11pr.cfm. I hate guns and the fact that my family is not safe anywhere - so I am prepared accordingly. I also train others to do the same, including many moms. Not everone can, will or should get a gun. However, people DO need to be more aware, vigilant and prepared against violence and more responsible for their own security. I teach many skills options for average people to not become victims, it is needed. Using a common anoligy,some of us choose to be sheepdogs, ready to confront the wolves, who will attack the sheep. Not everyone can do that. But I believe we need those who choose to do that. It is a huge deterrant to criminals. It is a fact that much pain and many lives are saved by people willing to do that. Government can not. That is proven daily on the news.
Greg Burns January 23, 2013 at 07:20 PM
We move on to http://wilton.patch.com/articles/let-cts-gun-control-debate-begin-part-ii-03f80123

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