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Gather Evidence Before Setting A Policy On Guns

To the Editor:

Hartford seems poised to hurry up and do something. This reminds me of a quote I heard years ago: “good politics rarely results in good policy.” Better laws always address cause rather than effect. Any good policy begins with defining the problem, gathering evidence and identifying causes. Only then should solutions be evaluated/developed.

Several years ago, new law was written to limit distracted driving to help reduce the thousands of accidents taking place all over Connecticut. First cell phone use was targeted then texting following the proliferation of the “smartphone.”  “Common sense” laws were implemented to reduce the quantity of occurrence by fining offenders and making it a primary reason for a traffic stop. Connecticut was one of the first states to address this. The effect is fewer accidents as a result of distracted driving. I think most would agree making “smartphones” illegal would reduce distracted driving, but be considered bad policy. A similar event took place in the 80s when the legal age for drinking alcohol was increased. Teenagers were drinking and driving and dying. Not long after the formation of MADD in 1980, policy was written to address the cause – keeping alcohol out of the hands of young adults until they’re 21.  We did not remove alcohol and cars from existence.

Today’s debate is about gun crime although one could reasonably argue there isn’t a gun crime problem in Connecticut. Unfortunately, this topic has been polluted with misinformation. Last week’s Bee had a letter filled with “copy/paste” content describing an assault weapon as if it were a caliber of bullet – oblivious to the way guns work and how the gun's cosmetic features don’t do the damage, the type of bullet does. Another claimed to be able to “easily” buy an assault weapon – oblivious to the fact that Connecticut has had a continuous assault weapon ban since 1993. Again, assault weapons have been banned in CT for 20 years. I encourage everyone to research this topic, it is not as gruesomely clear as being portrayed. The fact is the licensing and purchasing processes in Connecticut are possibly the most thorough in the country. Don’t believe what you read/hear, see for yourself at www.bradycampaign.org. Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents live within the current laws and are our responsible ordinary law-abiding friends and neighbors. Connecticut’s gun policy is sound and it works.

So here are my questions: When will we demand to know which psychotropic drugs are a common denominator in horrible irrational violence? When will we demand to know the effects of violent video games and movies? When will we require mental health professionals to disclose potentially dangerous behavior? Instead of letting politics trump policy, let’s try to prevent unstable people from doing horrendous things by addressing the cause. Being neither “for” nor “against” guns, I say we continue to gather evidence (like police and psychiatrists reports?), identify cause then focus on solutions that address why this happens and implement some genuine “common sense” policy.

Joe Duffy

5 Thomas Circle, Sandy Hook                                                      March 13, 2013

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