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.

Elena Bowen January 16, 2013 at 01:33 PM
joe_m January 16, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Please excuse the plagiarisms: “This is not about preventing mass-murders it is about eliminating your right to bear arms,” "people should not separate the Second Amendment from other amendments, particularly the first five, as they are all aligned and part of one larger concept of protection of one’s self, religion and property. In other words ”unalienable rights.” The Founding Fathers, believed that God gave these rights to mankind and that no government could take them away. _________________________________________________________________ Our Government has failed on so many levels, I have no faith that any laws they pass could prevent another tragedy. This is based on Dr Phil's, "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior". The more government involvement, the more problems, wasted money, corruption and incompetence. This should be dealt with locally by the local BOE's. 20/20 hindsight, we should have "hardened" our school building post 9-11. We had the "it can't happen here" mentality. The Beslan school hostage crisis of Sept 2004 did not open our eyes either. After all, it was a world away and "it couldn't happen here" It's not about guns. However, all the legislation and executive orders are turning law abiding citizens into criminals. The sad part, is none of the legislation is aimed at preventing another Newtown.
joe_m January 16, 2013 at 02:23 PM
As I've posted before, history shows us that criminals, psychopaths and sociopaths do not abide by the law. Our government is noted for ignoring and not enforcing some laws. There are consequences to this and illegal drug crime is just one of the results. The vast majority of violent gun crime is due to drug and gang related activity. The government has failed in reducing drug related activities and has failed in preventing convicted gang members from obtaining guns once they are released from prison. The US has the highest prison population in the world and we are still not safe. So, a government that has failed repeatedly, is expected to pass a new "magic" law that will succeed. And their answer is to deny the average law abiding citizen their God given rights to self defense. Common sense dictates that we should look to other answers. A close look Israel and how they protect their schools would be a good beginning.
Jimmy Pursey January 16, 2013 at 02:39 PM
"The vast majority of violent gun crime is due to drug and gang related activity." Source, please. I believe this is a myth.
Erik Musick January 16, 2013 at 02:40 PM
That's a curious thing, joe_m. We have the God given right of self-defense, yet many feel it is against God to shoot others in self-defense. And to cite Israel is extremely inappropriate for anything, since we have all been told that Israel is a terrorist nation who wages genocidal war against the Islamic Palestinians. You are bucking the narrative, joe_m. Your name has now been submitted to our Overlords. LOL!
Voice of Reason January 16, 2013 at 03:23 PM
"Let the Gun Control Debate Begin" Seems there is to be no debate. We have elected officials that are using ignorance and personal sentiment to legislate away the Personal and Property Rights of others, others whose only "crime" is ownership of a (once) legal item that is similar to that used by a criminal. We need to ban baseball bats too. Clearly, as the title reads, the bat is the problem. "Boy killed after baseball bat strikes him at camp" http://www.grahamstar.com/articles/2012/08/02/news/doc50081e7d020db277645375.txt
Erik Musick January 16, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Baseball bats. Easily bought. Readily available. More efficient at killing than rifles, apparently, or else more homicidal maniacs would be using rifles. Mom doesn't even flinch when I tell her, "Mom, I'm going to buy a baseball bat." Used more than the rifles in question to commit homicides. All-American imagery. Baseball bats. I demand President Obama to address this.
joe_m January 16, 2013 at 09:34 PM
http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment ■There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and OMG gang members comprising more than 33,000 gangs in the United States. ■Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others, according to NGIC analysis. Major cities and suburban areas experience the most gang-related violence. Local neighborhood-based gangs and drug crews continue to pose the most significant criminal threat in most communities. Aggressive recruitment of juveniles and immigrants, alliances and conflict between gangs, the release of incarcerated gang members from prison, advancements in technology and communication, and Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization (MDTO) involvement in drug distribution have resulted in gang expansion and violence in a number of jurisdictions. Let me repeat this: Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others, I assume the FBI is a reliable source?
joe_m January 16, 2013 at 09:42 PM
I'll continue from the same FBI report: Gang members are acquiring high-powered, military-style weapons and equipment which poses a significant threat because of the potential to engage in lethal encounters with law enforcement officers and civilians. Typically firearms are acquired through illegal purchases; straw purchases via surrogates or middle-men, and thefts from individuals, vehicles, residences and commercial establishments. Gang members also target military and law enforcement officials, facilities, and vehicles to obtain weapons, ammunition, body armor, police gear, badges, uniforms, and official identification. So, how's that gun control working for you? It is an acknowledged problem that has existed for years and there are tons of gun laws on the books. And gang members responsible for "a lot" of violent crime still manage to get guns. Does this scare you: Gang members also target military and law enforcement officials, facilities, and vehicles to obtain weapons, ammunition, body armor, police gear, badges, uniforms, and official identification. Read the report and ask "where is the war on gangs?" BTW, they are criminals not law abiding citizens.
joe_m January 16, 2013 at 09:44 PM
One more: Gang membership continues to expand throughout communities nationwide, as gangs evolve, adapt to new threats, and form new associations. Consequently, gang-related crime and violence is increasing as gangs employ violence and intimidation to control their territory and illicit operations. A known problem, getting worse, hows that government doing protecting the little people?
Markgm January 19, 2013 at 01:53 PM
What I find most interestingly missing from this entire national debate over gun control is that Adam Lanza, James Holmes, the Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech guy, are all mentally ill patients, with psychiatrists, most likely taking SSRI drugs. Lanza had 4 prescription drug bottles, and nobody knew what they were. He had asperger's syndrome, a variant of Autism. But there is no public discussion about the mentally ill in any of these cases. The event is being capitalized upon by people in govt who do not mention the real problem, here. Meanwhile, US homicides dropped from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 25,000 from 1980 to 2011. George Washington gave 2 reasons for the 2nd Amendment. 1) Defend against foreign nationals 2) Overthrow your govt On the first point, well, the govt is spending $50 B a year on counter-terrorism. The DHS says there's a domestic terrorist around every corner. So, we need guns, and good ones, to defend ourselves and our homes against the terrorists. On the 2nd point, we've got indefinite detentions, torture, no rights or representation, and a White House assassination program with no judicial oversight. We've got a 7% approval rating of the nation's congress. We've got fake crying by Obama leading the way with a gun grab that simply mirrors the up-and-coming UN Small Arms Treaty that Obama wants congress to sign. That's UN law, not US law. Food for thought
joe_m January 19, 2013 at 02:28 PM
'It's Not the People Who Vote that Count; It's the People Who Count the Votes' "As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it?" It's how they stay in office.
Markgm January 19, 2013 at 03:26 PM
I have also read that from 2009 to 2011, gang-bangers rose 1.4 million across the country, and most of them are the Mexican Mob. They are the most powerful and organized gang in America today. (Not like that's a domestic issue, or anything)
Markgm January 19, 2013 at 07:29 PM
..."law-abiding, gun-owning citizens are exposed to the same violent movies, video games and news every day that gun-owning criminals are"... It's not all one or the other. You might find this most interesting about TV. In 1975, JAMA released a report and informed the TV industry about increases in violence and aggression in pre-adolescents from watching violence on TV. Afterwards, the American Psychological Association and the American Pediatric Association got on board with that. What you may also find amazing is that there is data and analysis arguing that in a given nation which introduces TV, that 10-15 years after doing so, the homicide rate more than doubles. Bhutan introduced TV in 1999, and they're having a big buzz about violent crimes there today. Here's a read from a JAMA article, 1992... http://cursor.org/stories/television_and_violence.htm I do not think everyone is going to be violent from watching TV or playing video games. I do think it will affect the statistics of a population. Of course, not everyone gets suicidal or goes into a public building and shoots a whole bunch of people, either.


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