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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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