October 9, 2017

Connecticut has it right on gun control

Greg Bordonaro Editor

The outrage expressed last week by Connecticut state and federal lawmakers in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre was palpable.

Some even accused U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of politicizing a tragedy when they used tough words to describe Congress' inaction on gun-control measures.

"To my colleagues: your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers," Murphy tweeted shortly after news broke that a lone gunman killed at least 58 people and injured over 520 using a weapons cache that included souped up semiautomatic rifles.

But politicizing tragedy in this case is the right move as members of Congress must face increased pressure to pass common-sense gun control measures. Simple changes like universal FBI background checks of gun buyers has the support of the majority of Americans, yet Congress has kowtowed to the influential gun lobby. A ban on bump stocks (which the Las Vegas shooter used to turn his guns into automatic weapons), assault rifles and high-capacity magazines also makes sense.

The second amendment may be one of the most polarizing issues in American politics, but there are few reasons average Americans need access to military-grade weapons. Tightening access to them is good public policy, while still preserving Americans' right to bear arms.

Gun controls, however, aren't the only answer to solving this nation's penchant for deadly shootings. The argument that tighter gun restrictions won't prevent "crazies" from gaining access to weapons is a legitimate one. More money must be invested in mental-health services to detect and provide care to individuals who may be prone to violence or other anti-social tendencies.

Mandatory gun buyback programs also make sense to reduce the more than 300 million guns flooding American homes and streets, and to cut down on the most common deadly gun offenses, including suicide, and street and domestic violence.

Even then, this country will never be able to fully stop evildoers bent on violence from inflicting human harm (the policy suggestions outlined above, for example, may have done nothing to stop the most recent mass shooting). But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take steps to mitigate the risks.

Connecticut has been a leader on this issue in recent years. Spurred by the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults, the state passed sweeping, bipartisan gun reforms in 2013, including universal background checks on gun purchasers and a ban on new high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The reforms also created the nation's first gun-offender registry and broadened the state's assault weapons ban, outlawing the sale of certain guns produced by Connecticut-based manufacturers like Colt's and Stag Arms.

More money was also invested in mental-health services and programs.

Even in a deep-blue state like Connecticut, however, passing tough gun reforms wasn't easy, which doesn't bode well for progress in Washington D.C., even in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting. In fact, we may be more likely to see fewer restrictions on deadly weapons (there's currently a bill being considered by Congress that would make it easier to buy gun silencers).

That's why politicizing tragedy on such an important issue may be the only way to shift public opinion.

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