Can Connecticut Enact Rational Gun Control Legislation?

Patch Back columnist Lisa Bigelow spoke with State Representative Gail Lavielle about the challenges facing the legislature in the upcoming term.


With the holiday season behind us and 2013 officially here, the powers in Hartford are busy preparing for another jam-packed legislative agenda. Certainly, Connecticut is facing a wide variety of economic, fiscal and social challenges. And while national politics often capture the lion’s share of our collective attention, let’s not forget that what happens legislatively closer to home probably has a greater effect on our daily lives. 

I recently had the opportunity to meet State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) over sushi and seaweed in Westport. I came away impressed with her calm demeanor, easy intelligence and rational thinking. One of my New Year’s resolutions—to write more about local politics—came to early fruition as she agreed to speak with me again about her plans for the upcoming legislative session.

Before Newtown, our interview and the 2013 inaugural "Patch Back" column was to have been about the Connecticut state budget. Indeed, there will be many future columns dedicated to how our tax dollars are being spent.

But for now, gun control legislation chatter is at a fever pitch—and rightfully so. Our citizens demand action. And our elected officials have an important opportunity to demonstrate bipartisan thinking with more than feels-good, accomplishes-nothing legislation.

Ms. Lavielle, for one, is paying close attention.

“I am listening at this point,” Ms. Lavielle told me after remarking that Connecticut’s current assault weapons ban is ambiguous. While acknowledging she is still learning about the finer points of weapons technology, she is firm in her belief that new any new legislation language must be clearly defined as well as enforceable.

“Grandfathering sounds wonderful,” she said. “But is it enforceable? Probably not.

“I am willing to participate in a very informed and level headed debate — we need this debate,” she continued. “It seems in current usage ‘semi-automatic’ can mean just about anything.

“We are elected to think about things clearly and bring clear heads,” she added, “and I intend to spend the next four to six weeks learning the facts and learning my constituents’ opinions.”

These comments, for this columnist, were so refreshing to hear. The Newtown disaster demands a thoughtful, rational, practical and actionable response from our state government. As Ms. Lavielle observes, we must listen first, gather data next and only then draw conclusions from these data. Finally, our legislators must act to produce a meaningful law that will ensure Newtown never, ever happens again.

Addressing the problem with enhanced weapons measures will only attack part of the problem, however. I am hopeful that Governor Malloy’s newly-formed Sandy Hook commission will also consider the practicality of implementing and enforcing mandatory mental health background checks prior to purchase as well as private gun sale regulation. The gun show loophole should be closed, too.

Although I am looking forward to the commission's legislative recommendations in addition to the public comment on the proposed legislation, I am not looking forward to political grandstanding, emotionally charged and mostly anonymous online debate, and absurd special interest lobbying.

Let common sense and calm reign in Hartford and in our populace. Let the Sandy Hook commission and our lawmakers craft clear, thorough and enforceable legislation that will do more than ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and increase security at our schools. Let them remember that the vast majority of Connecticut gun owners are law-abiding citizens who have the right to own weapons without fear of having their names published, as one legislator foolishly suggested.

Finally, let us remember the term “assault weapon” is redundant. All guns kill. In this writer’s opinion, it’s the access to the weapon that must be better controlled.

Do you want to participate in Connecticut’s gun control legislative process? Share your views with Representative Lavielle at (860) 240-8700 or Gail.Lavielle@HouseGOP.CT.gov.

Michael Duff January 09, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Sad; you write a good article leading to open minded dialogue then you destroy it by injecting your very personal misleading belief. (“Finally, let us remember the term “assault weapon” is redundant. All guns kill. In this writer’s opinion, it’s the access to the weapon that must be better controlled.”) , Before all the facts of this monstrous tragedy have been reported, too many politicians and members of the press have their knee jerk solutions ready to go.
Bill Hillman January 10, 2013 at 05:39 AM
"enforcing mandatory mental health background checks prior to purchase" Perhaps it's even more important that mental health checks be a requirement for political office! Some whackos in office do plenty of damage! (Representative Lavielle excluded of course, she has been a good legislator) What a huge can of worms and risk for abuse and loss of privacy exposure of HIPPA protected data would entail! For permit holders, they have been fingerprinted, FBI-checked and have given sworn statements. They have had to obtain approved safety, legal and live fire training, and then wait for weeks for approvals. That system works and is not a rubber stamp. Invasive checks into a health background is simply not needed in addition to all the other checks for exercising a constitutionally (both federal and CT) protected right. I do hope Representative Lavielle will listen to the facts about firearms, and not rush into a slew of new laws, all likely to cause unintended consequences and be completely ineffective in preventing another tragedy at the hands of a lawless/deranged person
Bill Hillman January 10, 2013 at 01:29 PM
May I presume your position and concerns would equally apply to pilots, train conductors, anyone who is in a profession that can possibly endanger any one else, crane operators, all cops. I must remind that the potential for abuse of such a system was evidenced in soviet-era misuse of psychiatry. If an individual had been admitted to a mental institution, that's a fact that should be FBI reported, and would come back as a negative in the permit application process. As far as use of certain medicines precluding either gun ownership or participation ine many vocations, I'm simply not an expert in pharmacology, and would be interested in what the experts have to say.
Bill Hillman January 10, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Please consider the mechanisms for such evaluation, due process (the lack of appeal) and who can control that process (outside of legislative review). The intent is true; I fear the unintended consequences of how it would be done.
Bill Hillman January 10, 2013 at 04:36 PM
I don't know what statistics (facts, not interpretations) exist that show the frequency of properly permitted people committing crimes withe their lawfully obtained guns that also had a condition suggested as being a dis-qualifier. If that's a 1 in a million thing, I do not subscribe to the "if only one" argument. I suspect the mentally ill are more likely ones that obtain things illegally to do bad things. In absence of police incident reports, it's all speculation, and I don't think a basic right should be tossed aside on speculation. If a sizable percent of the 170,000 permit holders in CT have been involved in criminal use of their weapons, and a good portion of those used psychiatric medicine, I might agree with you. On the other hand, no evidence has yet been offered to show that. I believe the current permit process weeds out the unsuitable. So the question then turns to firearms not presently requiring a permit. I'm not ready to conclude ownership of a rifle requires a permit, but I might agree that no one should ever buy a firearm without first having passed some sort of safety course like those taught by the NRA. Proof of safety training would not be a 2nd amendment imposition.


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