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Ending Gun Violence for All

Patch Back's Lisa Bigelow wonders, will the results of Connecticut's gun control legislative efforts help all of our citizens, or just some?

 

The bipartisan task force on gun violence held a public hearing on Monday in Hartford during which Newtown victims’ family members, gun rights advocates, members of the public and elected representatives testified on upcoming legislation.   

The testimony was sobering. And it revealed an audience of constituents tired of violence, frustrated with the slow pace of legislative change and deeply, deeply divided over the rights of citizens to own (or not to own) assault-style weapons.

As I watched, what struck me most were not the heartbreaking words of the victims. It wasn’t the guarded words of the gun club member or the angry words of the control advocate.

Instead, it was the gentlemen from the high populations centers who deal with the slow, bloody drain of handgun violence every single day. They said, where have you been, Bipartisan Task Force? We’ve been begging for help for years.

They rightly stated that these current efforts, though certainly well intended, won’t do a thing to help victims of violence in the communities of Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. Therefore, I will repeat what needs repeating: any gun control legislation must address more than what is versus what isn’t an “assault” weapon.

It must be about more than just magazine capacity, too. It must even be about more than figuring out a way to incorporate better psychological care into our current health system. Instead, let us strive to end gun violence in all its forms so that our friends in urban areas win the same right to safety that those in quieter locales usually enjoy.

Alert: I’m going to ask the question that no one in the media seems to be asking. Many of you will disagree. And for once, I truly hope you do. And I not only hope you disagree, I hope you write in and tell me why I’m wrong (respectfully, of course … I didn’t enjoy being called a “stupid” “leftist” last week, even though my kids got a huge kick out of it).

Although many gun violence statistics can be twisted to suit a variety of needs the data on urban areas with high crime rates are clear: the victims are most often minorities. These minority victims are far outnumber the victims of mass shootings, who tend to be white. To me, it is disappointingly clear that the nationwide effort to “do something” about guns has everything to do with affluence and its favorite cousin, race.

Tell me, where are the marches when young children are murdered on the streets of Chicago, or New Haven, or Washington, or Detroit? Let me be clear: I do not question for one moment the sincerity or intent of the folks from March for Change or CAGV or hell, even the NRA. When an event such as Newtown occurs in our own backyard it is only natural that the local response should be strong and heartfelt and pure.

But I do have serious questions about the value we as a society place on human life. Or, at the very least, I question the validity of developing a legislative response to a societal threat that is directly proportional to the consequences of one action, as occurred in Newtown, versus developing a legislative response to what occurs every day to people of all colors.

Let’s work together to make all forms of violence end, as one reader so aptly wrote to me several days ago. Let’s help our legislators craft a bill that will regulate private gun sales so common criminals can’t get them easily. Let’s make universal background checks strict and repeating. Let’s develop and enforce safe storage laws and train administrators and teachers in effective self defense tactics.

Most of all, let us remember the words written in the hearts of every American: all men are created equal.

vocal local 1 January 29, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Lisa, I hear ya. I've been trying to imagine what I would/could do if I were a mother living in poverty in the slums of Chicago. How could I keep my son's out of the violent, drug dealing street gangs, I have to send them to school and school sure seems to be the social arena of social injustice and inequality. School is where my son's will make friends and association. How could I prevent my 15 year old from obtaining a gun. From using it? IF I call the cops I make my son a criminal. Would it matter if I was active in my church? I don't think so. We'd still be economically and socially trapped in a rich man's drug war zone. I'd want my legislature to act quickly. But to act quickly doing what? Addressing the drug issue or violating the constitution and stiffening gun laws nationally? Gun control efforts have not worked locally. What makes the public think they will work nationally? I signed the Sandy Nook Promise. Today I tried to remove my name after hearing some of the comments as I don't see any change in ideology. I'll lose my son's if they go to prison, I'll lose them if they are shot and killed. My hopes as a mother no longer matter as my children are locked into poverty and a life no better than my own. Change has got to go deeper than removing my rights. How about simply assuring equality and access to opportunity. How do we change it's not what you know but who you know? How do we make America honest again a free country where dreams come true?
Lisa Bigelow January 29, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Lisa
Kathy January 29, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Yay Lisa! It's about time someone called out for this legislation for what it is. RACIAL. More young people are killed in Chicago than any other American city. Since 2008, more than 530 youth have been killed in Chicago with nearly 80 percent of the homicides occurring in 22 African-American or Latino community areas on the city’s South, Southwest and West sides. The entire nation will pray, donate, organize and demand action for 20 Newtown children, but do nothing for 530 Chicago children. That's RACIAL.
Marc Michaud January 29, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Lisa - You are a rare voice of reason in a world of shrill hyperbole. With your permission, I would like to add another question; Why is the topic titled "Gun Violence" rather than just "Violence"? Are the countless deaths caused by violence other than firearms somehow more politically correct? Have we as a culture allowed ourselves to become so distracted by counting the number of bullets a weapon can hold, or its cosmetic features that we fail to see or address the underlying causes? Can we, as a community, come together to solve our differences without resorting to blame gaming, finger pointing, denigrating, and racing to the polar opposites? For in the end, most of us all want for the same things, to live in peace.
Lisa Bigelow January 30, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Hi Marc, Just as an fyi, the headlines I write don't always pass muster. In this case, the editors chose to change it. I am sure this is a reference to the upcoming legislation that will, undoubtedly, pertain only to gun violence. Thanks for reading and commenting! Lisa
Lisa Bigelow January 30, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Kathy, It is incredible what is happening in Chicago. If I am not mistaken, Illinois has the strictest gun laws in the nation; food for thought, indeed. Lisa
SDK January 30, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Maybe we should all consider that different groups who commit violence need different laws. Adam Lanza did not own firearms, although he could have legally purchased them without a problem. If his mother had simply chosen to store them safely, they would not have been at hand. She was not a criminal -- she simply used poor judgment. And her poor judgment endangered every single person in her town. . Gun regulations do not have much effect on criminals. But they do effect the way that law-abiding gun owners store and manage access to their firearms. Suicide, accidental shootings, domestic violence, gun theft, and mass murder all respond to regulation. Drug dealing and other criminal behavior, not as much. We already lock up more people for crime than any other nation in the industrialized world. We already penalize people for using guns in crimes. Everything else we could do that might help gun crime such as registering guns and owners, cracking down on private sales -- are opposed by the gun lobby as an inconvenience. Most criminals carry guns partially to protect themselves from other criminals. In those cases, an armed society is definitely not a polite one. One thing that could help prevent both crime and mass murder is mandatory safe storage. A gun that is safely stored is much less likely to be stolen and sold to criminals. Coincidentally, it is also not available to your suicidal children. Win win.
Randy Pineau January 30, 2013 at 04:04 AM
Lisa - thanks for the honesty about Patch editors changing the headline so they can incite more drama through "gun" titles. Oh, and I'll grab a screenshot of my reply ... In case it doesn't get "approved".
Thomas Crafts January 30, 2013 at 09:32 AM
Violence is deeply ingrained in human DNA. It has been selected for over the millenia and all your wishing isn't going to change that. The more primitive the people, the more it comes out, but it is there in all of us otherwise we wouldn't be here.
Jan Neuberger January 31, 2013 at 09:35 PM
I too have wondered at the failure to connect Newtown's unthinkable loss to the daily attrition experienced by people not fortunate enough to live in such a town. You've called attention, Lisa, to the elephant in the room. Children everywhere COUNT. I fervently believe that, on their behalf, we must arrive at last at a national definition of "arms" that entitles law-abiding citizens to possess guns which adequately serve the purpose of self-defense and contribute to the enjoyment of sport. But the ability to kill at high speed and in high volume must be curtailed. I propose redefining the current discussion from one of gun control to one of weapons control: where, after all, do we draw the line? Towards that end and in support of C.A.G.V.'s agenda, I will attend the March for Change on February 14th. As a number of your other replies so wisely point out, weapons control is but one prong of what must be a multi-pronged approach. It is incredibly daunting to consider the numbers of problems that must be addressed in the interest of eradicating the lure of violence, but we cannot afford to throw up our hands. Weapons control is, at least, a place to start.
Marc Michaud February 01, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Jan - What if you had reasonable, credible, evidence, from a trusted source. Lets say the U.S. Dept. of Justice, that the type of weapons bans which are now being promoted, have never been effective in reducing crime or the number of those weapons in circulation? Would you still support the agenda? What if you discovered that your participation in organizations which promote that agenda have contributed to a panic buying frenzy by tens of thousands of your fellow citizens, thus causing hundreds of thousands more weapons to be added to a civilian arsenal which now numbers in the hundreds of millions? If the intention of the weapons ban lobby is to rid our community of the scourge of firearms, they are off to a poor start. You may not be aware of this, but Connecticut only registers handguns only, long guns, such as the one used on 12/14 are not registered and difficult to track once in circulation. I believe If we are to have any hope at all in curtailing this heinous madness, we must demand something better from our lawmakers than a 20 year old failed initiative. I'm going to break with the Pro-Firearm lobby and state unequally that we must have universal licensing and registration for all types of firearms. Furthermore, we must revisit CGS 29-38c to include all members of a household, and make psychological health care providers into mandated reporters to the DPS when they observe behavioral manifestations which have preceded the mass casualty crimes.
Thomas Crafts February 02, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Registration=confiscation, every time.
Jan Neuberger February 03, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Marc, you argue impressively. Nevertheless, to your first question I answer unequivocally, Yes. The issue may well be one not of ineffective legislation but of lax enforcement. To your second question, I refer you to the C.A.G.V.'s website: they advocate a ban on sale and possession of assault weapons with no grandfathering. I am in complete agreement with you on the notion of "universal licensing and registration for all types of firearms" and, further, I advocate a severely curtailed definition of what types of firearms may be legally purchased and possessed. Yes, Marc, I intend to go forward with my support of what you call "the weapons ban lobby. Tomorrow I will call my Senators and Representatives as part of the Interfaith Call-in Day to Prevent Gun Violence, and I will be a volunteer at the March for Change. At this stage in the national dialogue, numbers are critical. We must call, write, and SHOW UP to demonstrate clearly that, as David Wheeler so movingly and accurately pointed out, the Founding Fathers did not make Life first on the list of inalienable rights by accident.
Marc Michaud February 04, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Jan - I believe you, and citizens like you, are responsible for putting more weapons into circulation than the NRA could have ever hoped to accomplish. As far as unilateral bans with no grandfathering, do you understand that we are discussing hundreds of millions of firearms and magazines, most of which we do not have accurate accountability of? You write of "lax enforcement" as the culprit. When these laws come into effect then what? Will we then tread upon the protections of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th Amendments, as well as Article II, Section 9, and Article III Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, plus numerous provisions of the Constitution of our own State of Connecticut? In short, we would have to burn our villages down in order to save them. Do you propose we abandon everything we've ever stood for and kick in every door in America? Because that's what it would take to remove these weapons from our society. I steadfastly agree with you that we must address the proliferation of firearms which are capable of generating such high volumes of fire. I simply disagree as to how to go about it. I do not believe its wise or practical to criminalize and alienate nearly half of our nations population as the means to the end.
Jan Neuberger February 04, 2013 at 03:28 PM
I don't know about you, Marc, but if I described myself as a law-abiding citizen and found myself in possession of a weapon which had been declared unlawful to own, I would go to the proper authorities and turn it in. Seems to me that's what's called for in a nation of laws. Further, were I at present a responsible gun owner, I would feel it was my patriotic duty to muster a militia of like-minded gun owners and mount a vigorous campaign--better yet, a boycott--aimed at extracting a pledge from gun manufacturers to cease and desist in creating and selling assault weapons. Where is the hue and cry from these individuals, who are out there in what I must believe are the many hundreds of thousands, if not millions? Why do they allow those who argue from an extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment to control the message? I will be the first to admit, Marc, that I do not grasp every ramification that may arise from the March for Change and concurrent activities. As you disagree with the tactic, I sincerely hope you are actively following a different means to what I believe we agree is the same desired end.
Marc Michaud February 05, 2013 at 12:07 AM
"In any civilized society, it is every citizen's responsibility to obey just laws. But at the same time, it is every citizen's responsibility to disobey unjust laws." [Martin Luther King Jr.] "The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this" [Albert Einstein, "My First Impression of the USA," 1921] Unfortunately Jan, there are many thousands of your fellow citizens who believe that laws calling for the confiscation of legally obtained personal property, and the prohibition of particular types of weapons because they have become objects of fetishism, are unjust, unconstitutional, and therefore illegal. If you don't believe me, go and ask the people lined up four deep at the sporting goods retailers waving their credit cards with no intention of ever turning them in. As far as the "mustering of a like minded militia" goes; that sounds an awful lot like a call to armed vigilantes, and I believe in peace for all, not just people I agree with. Your comment has neatly defined the dilemma of the slippery slope we all now occupy. This race to the uncompromising polar opposites can only end in more tears.
Jan Neuberger February 05, 2013 at 02:53 PM
I'm sure you're familiar, Marc, with the tactic employed by the anti-abortion movement of intercepting women entering family planning clinics and attempting to prick their consciences with reports and photographs of botched procedures. Perhaps the militia of which I spoke--in what is clearly a rhetorical echo of Second Amendment language and not a "call to armed vigilantes"—might employ the same tactic, displaying photographs of the carnage—out of respect to the bereaved, I will not use more graphic language—arising out of our freedom to bear a virtually unlimited variety of arms. I believe in peace for all too, Marc, and far from advocating a polarizing point of view, I submit that my position respects the Second Amendment within the bounds of reason and the respect for life which takes precedence over it.
Marc Michaud February 05, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Jan, thank for this opportunity to engage in a reasoned discussion with an individual of good faith. If you believe that I am advocating for obedience to constitutional principles over human life, you are in error. It is precisely because we must find a way to stop the carnage that I am promoting my position. The enforcement of prohibitionist laws have a long history of dismal failure so we must find another way. This is why I'm advocating for far more stringent requirements for weapon owner licensing and background checks, to include mandated reporting from psychological health care professionals. I also believe we must revisit our weapons confiscation laws (CGS 29-38c) and close the loopholes which helps allow firearms into hands of individuals who should not have them. If I know my neighbor and his/her family to be trustworthy, I would sleep well at night if they had a fully armed battle tank parked in their driveway. If I know my neighbor to be untrustworthy, then I wouldn't want them to have so much as a slingshot in their household.
Jan Neuberger February 07, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Marc, I again urge you to poke, prod, make noise, be proactive in promoting your call for licensing, background checks, & loophole closing: all vital to the cause of lessening the threat of gun violence. Yours is a powerful voice! Thank you as well for this opportunity to exercise our freedom of speech. (By the way...I think we may know each other...are you an old friend of the Parkers?)
Randy Pineau February 08, 2013 at 05:01 AM
Marc and Jan - I think all your medical records should be available to the Chief of Police. That way, he or she can decide what you can and can't possess. After all, they know beat! If not our police, maybe a higher authority would be better to make that decision. Your knives and hammers and knitting needles need to be serialized and recorded at town hall too. It's helpful if your local government knows you own these things in case you get too many speeding tickets. When you reach 80, please don't be mad when we confiscate your car - you shouldn't be allowed to drive in our safety concious community. I'm also excited to inform you that for your safety, we are making motorcycles illegal to own and operate. This will mot only save lives, but will lessen medical costs from fewer disfiguring accidents. I know you'll be excited too, to know that our legislators have put some new laws on the books preventing any manufacturer from making anything with sharp corners! Yes, sarcasm. But far fetched? I think not.
Marc Michaud February 08, 2013 at 11:24 AM
26yrs - I hear you and share your concerns. But believe there has to be a balance between the rights of the individual versus the safety of the whole. At the time of our founders we were a much more homogeneous society where neighbor knew neighbor and we did a better job of keeping track of individuals known to be a threat to to our safety. The words "a well regulated militia" were very carefully chosen. Unfortunately we now have a culture where we live in closer proximity but greater isolation. For example what was once said in in the public square can now be stated from the anonymity of a blog name. It is my hope that we can replace the ineffective mishmash of firearms laws with a more consistent approach. If done through the Legislature rather than by executive fiat, we stand a reasonable chance at building in due process which will protect us from the excesses that you are very reasonably concerned about. Jan - Yes, I remember the Parkers but haven't seen them in years.
Jan Neuberger February 08, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Marc and--speaking of anonymity-- "26 years": I'm thunderstruck by the difference in tone in these two posts. "Sarcasm?" Yes, I'd say so; just the sort that prevents reasoned discourse and insults the intelligence of those who argue from a point of view different from one's own. Clearly neither Marc nor I advocates excessive intrusion into personal liberty. I can't put it better than Marc already has: "there has to be a balance between the rights of the individual versus the safety of the whole." Thanks, Marc. I wish you both a safe and peaceful day.
Sandra February 18, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Lisa- I totally agree that there is evidence of racism when so many young black children are killed every day in Chicago (20 killed in a weekend). Since 2001,5000 black Americans have lost their lives to gun violence in Chicago. I posted an article on the Patch on this topic and it has been "pending" for two days. I must say I have been very disappointed by the Patch when it comes to limiting the dialogue.
Ed P. February 19, 2013 at 02:12 AM
WHOA!... Sandra?.... you are calling racism where its black on black crime? Now Ive heard EVERYTHING!
Ed P. February 19, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Marc.... So since WE in America are not as "homogeneous" anymore in YOUR eyes, you want to make radical changes, that fit nicer into YOUR beliefs? wants & needs? cloaked in what YOU call "The safer of the Whole"?. Heck with the NON "Homogeneous" types that don't think like you? Maybe the laws are just FINE! and maybe YOU need to change? ever think of that option? Are the BAD non Homogeneous types going to abide by your new laws? are they going to stop committing crime all of a sudden? Its arrogant man!, to think that all this change needs to happen in these few short years of YOUR lifetime. It's the people that need fixing, not the laws. And, Laws are RE-active, not PRO-active. Laws by design are made to punish, they don't stop crime. You know?. You're against the death penalty I assume? because its not a deterrent right? Same deal. It's really designed to RID society of its worst filth, the filth that cannot be trusted to not act like filth again. RE-active. How can we take liberals seriously when gun crime has been going down for decades and the Polar Bear population has been increasing, yet the biggest things on Liberal minds are getting the Polar Bear on the endangered species list and Changing the 2nd Amendment?

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