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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.

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Eddie D January 11, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Read the story of Melinda Herman, while on the phone with 911 an intruder broke through several doors to get to an attic space she was hiding with her two young children. ONLY because she had a weapon did she and her kids survive, she shot the bastard five times and he still lived unfortunatley. She had six rounds in her pistol and fired all of them.
Jlo January 11, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Just a couple days after that a lady Atlanta was home alone and the same thing happened, guy knocked at the door then broke in, she hid in the closet and called 911, while she was waiting for PD to arrive the intruders opened the closet door and shot her, then escaped. She is going to live thankfully but just goes to show how lucky melinda was. There is a string of these types of home invasions going on in Atlanta and anyone who remembers the Petitte murders knows that CT is not immune to them either. http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/20500750/woman-shot-during-violent-home-invasion
Shocked in WILTON January 12, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Very painful. Newtown tragedy. ......in how many ways and contexts can we use the words gun control? I have yet to hear any one offer any realistic, tangible solutions to the issue.........except the regurgitated call to ban certain types of guns. Why cant the cry be consistant? We have countless automobile accidents that result in death. I dont get it. Why isnt the automatic reaction to ban cars? Because it is a ridiculous statement. The problem here is. The politicians do not really understand about fireamrs as a group, let alone the constitutionality of the rights. The anti gun people are wither reactionarily emotional, or have a hidden agenda. And pro gun people, myself included running around like chickens without heads trying to put out all the "fires" of misinformation, ignorance or outright deceipt. The net result? NO solutions to the rising epidemic of violence in our society. I , for one DO have a possible solution to the firearms quandry. I DO believe I have a rational , constitutional, functional long term solution to the problem, which will happen again ,and again and again period! I have presented my views, in the form of a proposed bill to several legistators in Connecticut. Lets see what they do with it. It consists of an informed, ratonal, fiscally possible, functional solution.....that is hard and fast and out of the proverbial box. Lets see if our forward thinking legislators can come up with something other than OMG ban those semiautomatics.
Shocked in WILTON January 12, 2013 at 11:05 PM
On a complete side bar, having nothing to do with the spirit off the issue at hand. Rep Gail Lavielle, IS the person described by the author as a highly intelligent, rational, superior grade politician. From my point of view, from the things I have heard her say and do, I really do believe she is cut of "founding fathers" type cloth. If ALL legislators in Connecticut we like her, no matter which side of the political isle you are on, we would have virtually no problems in Connecticut on a social, financial, and moral frontier. Hats off to this classy, brilliant Representative
Alethiologist January 13, 2013 at 11:12 AM
But why does she complain about spending in Hartford but vote for spending increases in Wilton EACH AND EVERY TIME? She asks intelligent questions but there is no follow thru when it comes time to vote.

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