Monday, April 15, 2013

Modulating The Message In Connecticut


Following the successful passage of a bill in Connecticut restricting gun use, a political bar had been crossed. It is a considerable understatement to say that the political rhetoric wielded mostly by Democrats, without which the bill might not have passed, was overheated. To a man and woman, the chief actors – Governor Dannel Malloy and most Democratic leaders in the General Assembly – insisted time and again that their legislation would prevent such events as the mass slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
One Connecticut rifle manufacturer is leaving the state because of its strict new gun restrictions,” Maureen Dowd wrote in a New York Times column, a provocation to which newly elected U.S. Senator Chris Murphy responded, “If we made our schools safer at the expense of a handful of jobs, I think that’s a trade-off we have to make.”

The Connecticut legislation did pass with the bi-partisan support of Republican leaders in the General Assembly, two of whom, State Senator John McKinney and State Representative Larry Cafero, managed to put their fingerprints on the legislation without resorting to the kind of boilerplate prose that moved Mr. Murphy to launch at the National Rifle Association (NRA) several nuclear tipped rhetorical missiles.
Mr. Malloy was incautious enough to include Connecticut manufacturers of so called “assault weapons” -- defined by those who wish to abolish them as any weapon used in an assault -- among the impets fluttering around the NRA. On the Sunday after he signed the gun restriction bill into law, Mr. Malloy visited CNN’s show “State of the Union,” friendly ground, and fragged the gun industry. “What this is about,” said Mr. Malloy, “is the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible—even if they are deranged, even if they are mentally ill, even if they have a criminal background. They don’t care. They want to sell guns.”
Back at home in Connecticut, Joe Bartozzi – the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the oldest family-owned and operated firearms manufacturer in America, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, located in North Haven, Connecticut – saw the program and dashed off a letter to Mr. Malloy.
“In a recent letter to us,” Mr. Bartozzi wrote to the governor, “you stated that you hoped our company would stay here in Connecticut and that we can have am ‘open an honest dialogue’ over issues where we may disagree. Your letter went on to say that there is in Connecticut ‘an administration that has been consistently dedicated to supporting the kind of precision manufacturing that takes place at your company.’ I would submit that your recent public (emphasis original) comments about our industry are not at all consistent with your private (emphasis original) letter to us. With all due respect, your comments came across as insulting and slanderous to our employees and to our industry, and appear to be politically motivated as opposed to constructive or meaningful.”
Hard to imagine – a politician priming the rhetorical pump for political reasons.
Mr. Bartozzi pointed out to Mr. Malloy that his company had gone on the public record, both in public hearings and in private consultations with legislators, to support real world solutions to mass murders in public schools. His company, Mr. Bartozzi wrote, supported measures to prevent access to firearms prohibited to criminals and other at-risk people, repairing and updating the National Instant Check System (NICS), making available to the NICS data base system relevant mental health records and restraining order status and enforcing current laws against the illegal possession of weapons. He reminded Mr. Malloy that his company has already distributed, free of charge, “over nine and a half million firearm locking devices to help gun owners keep their firearms securely stored and inaccessible to children or at rick individuals in their homes.”
Both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Murphy are familiar with Mr. Bartozzi’s prudent and common sense ideas, and both would have found it very difficult politically to acknowledge them while demagoging the gun industry. It is never a good idea in politics to give your scapegoat an opportunity to plead innocent. Mr. Malloy and Mr. Murphy simply found it convenient to keep Mr. Bartozzi’s practical suggestions close to their chests while their largely self-serving demagogic rampage was in full eruption. While Mr. Murphy was slaying the NRA dragon and Mr. Malloy was putting the horns on gun manufacturer in his home state, U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal was attending to more mundane matters, for which he was reproved by the New Haven Register.  
The paper did NOT say in its editorial that U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal ought not to be raising campaign funds from atop the bodies of 20 slain school children; this would have been irregular and, perhaps worst, impolite.
The editorial said that U.S. Representative Chris Murphy and Governor Dannel Malloy were “helping give voice to the victims’ families” in Washington D.C. preceding a vote on a gun regulation bill, a ghostly shadow of Connecticut’s far stronger bill. However, the paper noted, “The issue took a disgusting political turn on Thursday, though, when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., used Sandy Hook to raise money. The money is not for one of the relief funds set up to help victims’ families, or to fund mental health services, or to support autism research… In the wake of the horror of the December 14, 2012, massacre of 20 beautiful children and 6 dedicated educators, Blumenthal is asking supporters to send money to his 2016 re-election campaign!... Using the ‘horror’ of the ‘massacre of 20 beautiful children’ at a time when critical legislation honoring their memory is at stake to beg for $5 for your next political campaign is as tasteless as it gets.”
Mr. Blumenthal, the eighth richest millionaire senator in Congress, wrote in an auto-appeal to his prospective campaign contributors – some of whom may reside in stricken Newtown -- “In the wake of the horror of the December 14, 2012, massacre of 20 beautiful children and 6 dedicated educators… As your senator, I will continue fighting for the rights of all the people, not the special interests. But I need your help, Please contribute $5 now as the Senate debate continues on common-sense gun reform legislation this week.”
Mr. Murphy later defended Mr. Blumenthal’s poorly timed campaign pitch: “People want to support the work that we do and right now people supporting the work we are doing is on this bill.”
Asked by a reporter if using the Sandy Hook slaughter as a pitch for money was “insensitive,” Mr. Blumenthal, avoiding a direct answer, responded “I am committed to working with the families in fighting for the cause of gun violence prevention.”
In the past, Mr. Blumenthal several times claimed before various select groups – inadvertently, he hotly protested – that he had served in the military in Vietnam. The false claims were picked up by the New York Times and used by Linda McMahon, then running as a Republican for the U .S. Senate, as a battering ram against the impregnable Mr. Blumenthal, who suffered the minor annoyance with great tolerance, went into hiding near the end of his campaign and finally emerged victorious. After 20 years handling press inquiries as Connecticut’s crusading Attorney General, Mr. Blumenthal has got the dodge dance down pat: When confronted with a hostile question, answer the question you wished you had been asked; then shut up and make yourself scarce.
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