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.

Tuck January 17, 2013 at 08:23 PM
A nice, well-reasoned post, Lisa. I think the key thing to acknowledge about what happened is that it's rare, and very hard to prevent. Many of the proposals to "address" Newtown tacitly acknowledge this because the "solutions" proposed would not have prevented what actually happened in Newtown.
Bill Hillman January 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM
The law of unintended consequences, or what happens when politicians rush to legislate without proper thought can best be highlighted in NY State's rushed revision to its laws now limiting magazine capacity to 7 rounds. In their haste, law enforcement was not exempted, prompting this story: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news%2Flocal%2Fnew_york&id=8958116 where this quote is most telling: "Nearly every law enforcement agency in the state carries hand guns that have a 15 round capacity......State Senator Eric Adams, a former NYPD Captain, told us he's going to push for an amendment next week to exempt police officers from the high-capacity magazine ban. In his words, "You can't give more ammo to the criminals" In a home defense situation none of us ever want to be a participant, why is the logic any different. If cops need, for plain and simple tactical reasons in a defensive situation need 15 rounds; how is that need any different for a homeowner armed with a pistol looking to exercise their right to protect their home, their children, and family? Think, first, before passing knee-jerk laws with unintended consequences!
Lisa Bigelow January 18, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Thanks to all for reading and commenting! Bill, I agree that knee-jerk lawmaking such as what recently occurred in NY tells a tale of sloppiness. Connecticut, thankfully, appears to be taking the opposite approach with the appointment of the SH commission. Interesting that NY should pass legislation so quickly but CT is taking the slow, measured route. I can't help but wonder if this is because Gov. Cuomo has higher aspirations. Naturally he would deny this and of course it's just speculation. But interesting nevertheless. Thanks again! Lisa B.
Concerned Parent & Gun Owner January 18, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Even the folks in Weston have come to their senses and realize a measured and thoughtful approach is mandatory in such matters. The only people who push for quick legislation at the height of emotion are those with a pre-existing agenda who are taking advantage of the horrific event. Connecticut Against Gun Control is just such at organization with a singlular mission of disarming the law abiding armed citizen. Ron Pinciaro is a zealot who is now using the Newtown tragedy to recruit suburban mommies and daddies to his cause in the guise of March for Change. I have interacted with several of the March folks and their level of understanding ot the issues shows little actual knowledge of firearms and heavy indoctrination into the world of selective statistics, guilt-by-association and fear mongering. While these people lambaste the N.rA for ginning up fears among gun owners, these well-meaning but misguided souls think they will make their kids safer with a stricter AW ban and magazine capaci limits. Meanwhile, they ignore inner city gun violence where they proposals will have zero impact. If I was not polite I might suggest these suburbanites are being subtly racist but that would be extreme. Then again..... Here's one attendee's recap of Thursday night's meeting in Weston. http://ctcarry.com/News/Release/19fe0c13-9a29-459e-84d2-a89a7aad8cfd
Betty January 18, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Dr Petits tragedy showed a homeowner must have a right to protect his family, The police cant do it. If I want 20 rounds to protect my family its my business. To demonize law abiding gun owners like Gov Cuomo and Sen Chris Murphy ( and others) is outrageous and unamerican. What New York did in the dead of night is outrageous and a black mark in American history. Hopefull lawmakers in Connecticut will look at the real problem , mental health issues and the misuse of stong anti psychotic drug cocktails by doctors.


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