Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Gun Bill, A Flawed Design

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, the Chanticleer of gun regulation in Connecticut, was in a crowing mood when he announced publically a set of gun regulations the General Assembly was expected pass in response to the mass slaughter of students and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

"There were some,” Mr. Williams said, “who said the 'Connecticut effect' would wear off — that it would wear off in Connecticut and it would wear off across the country. What they didn't know was that Democrats and Republicans would come together and work to put together the strongest and most comprehensive bill in theUnited States to fight gun violence, to strengthen the security at our schools, and to provide the mental health services that are necessary.”

Republican state House Minority Leader Larry Cafero concurred. “Knowing that that tragedy happened in Connecticut, it was up to Connecticut to show the way. And I'm very proud to say today the package that we are introducing ... has accomplished that goal."

Connecticut, head ofthe pack in regrettable firsts – first in the nation in high taxes, first in high debt obligations, first in poor credit rating, first in the worst Achievement Gap -- now, according to Mr. Williams, is first in the nation in gun regulation, presumably outpacing even Illinois. Cook County in Illinois includes Chicago, murder capital of the United States and, prior to the Connecticut bill expected to be reported out of committees and quickly passed into law, a city with the most stringent gun regulations in the United States.

Most gun regulations, however comprehensive, do not affect the misuse of weapons by criminals who, generally, are no respecters of laws or persons; which is why, come to think of it, many people choose to arm themselves with weapons sufficient to repel home invasions of the kind that occurred in Cheshire some months before the General Assembly repealed capital punishment laws in Connecticut. The Cheshire home invasion in which three women were murdered by two paroled prisoners induced a massive spike in gun sales in the state. The prospect of the passage of the current bill further restricting the lawful use of guns by non-criminals produced the same effect: People in the state, especially those who lived in rural areas distant from first responders were stocking up on guns and ammunition before the Connecticut legislature could restrict the supply.

The provisions of the bill expected to be written into law by a bipartisan majority in the General Assembly will not likely affect the criminal misuse of firearms: The provision requiring a criminal background check of sales, while useful, will move underground the illegal sale of weapons used in crimes; so also with provisions restricting the sale of magazines to ten rounds and a provision requiring the safe storage of weapons.

Major studies on the criminal use of weapons conclude that instant background check systems on all sales of weapons, which force criminals to use straw purchasers, as well as liberal open carry laws minimally deter the criminal use of weapons. A study that correlated the FBI’s gun crime rankings for homicides, robberies and assaults with both Brady Campaign rankings measuring the strength of state gun laws and Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ rankings showed no correlation between crime rates on the one hand and the strength of such laws and disclosure requirements on the other.

The impetus for the Connecticut legislation that adds 100 new guns to an already long list of proscribed weapons was, as Connecticut politicians never tired of reminding us, the mass slaughter of school children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was always a chancy proposition to extrude an effective bill from that slaughter house, chiefly because investigators have kept close to their chests much of the necessary data that could inform such a bill. A final criminal report is not due until late June, months after the bill has been passed.

Under that section of the current bill describing measures to increase school safety, the impetus for the entire legislative effort, one finds a provision creating a “School Safety Infrastructure Council” tasked with developing standards for upgrading the physical infrastructure of school buildings, but no provisions requiring or financingthe placement of Security Resource Officers (SROs) in schools.

The people of Newtown, doubtless more interested in securing the safety of their children than most concerned politicians, leapt far ahead of Connecticut’s General Assembly and the national legislature when the town’s Board of Finance appropriated early in March $420,000  to pay for armed security guards in all of its public schools, also setting aside $180,000 in its Board of Selectmen’s budget to pay for armed guards in its private schools.

Sandy Hook has taught the people of Newtown – and most recently Enfield, which has also financed armed personnel in schools -- that bullets cannot be stopped by teachers, however brave, or oleaginous politicians, however genuine their concern may at first sight appear.
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