JEFF SYBERTZ ’13
At the start of this semester, I wrote an article regarding the current state of gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. I wrote of the need for the federal government to enact tougher gun laws, despite political bickering and powerful lobbies, in order to prevent another Sandy Hook from happening and help decrease the number of gun related deaths in America’s urban areas.
Although the federal government is still struggling to enact any sort of substantive legislation, the state of Connecticut was finally able to implement substantial gun reform this past week. Many have said that these reforms have made Connecticut’s gun laws some of the toughest in the country. Although some people may argue that some of the measures are too extreme, these reforms represent an example of bipartisanship in the wake of one of the worst national tragedies in our history.
After a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th, all of American society knew that there needed to be changes to the nation’s gun laws. The gunman used legally purchased assault weapons. In the wake of the tragedy, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party vowed to enact significant federal gun control measures to prevent the more than dozen mass shootings and nearly 10,000 gun related deaths in 2012. However, in the four months since the shooting, the federal government has been unable to enact anything significant because of obstructionist politics in Washington and the power of gun lobbies.
Although the call for federal gun law reform has been much louder, the state of Connecticut also vowed to enact significant state gun control laws because of the fact that the Newtown shooting took place in the state of Connecticut. With much less fanfare than the federal gun control debate, the state of Connecticut established the toughest gun control laws in the country last week. Some of these new laws included adding more than 100 weapons to the assault weapons ban, created the nation’s first dangerous weapon offender registry, and enacted background reforms for all firearms sales.
The bill also included measures that would attempt to address some of the state’s mental health and school security deficiencies. The bill was easily passed in both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support and has been lauded as an example of officials from both sides of the aisle banding together to create legislation for the benefit of their constituents.
The bill is not as comprehensive as it was originally designed to be, as gun control advocates were unable to get magazine size limits into the legislation. Nonetheless, this bill shows that governments can effectively respond to the demands of their voters, especially in the wake of a national tragedy. Granted, Democrats own large majorities in both the House and the Senate in Connecticut and widespread support from the Republican Party was not needed to get this legislation passed. Nonetheless, lawmakers wanted to make sure that this law transcended petty political issues. No matter what one may think of the overall gun control debate, one does not have to want every gun in the United States confiscated by the government to realize that something had to be done after the number of mass shootings in the US in 2012.
Although the legislation may not be as extensive as it needs to be, the fact that something has finally been done helps restore the faith in government for many American citizens. Connecticut went from being one of the states with the weakest gun laws in the country to having some of the strongest laws. These laws will not prevent all future mass shootings and gun related deaths. People who should not be able to use firearms will always find ways to acquire firearms.
Trying to prevent all gun related deaths is like trying to stop all people from drunk driving; it is simply impossible. But this does not mean we should not try to do everything we can stop gun crimes. In the wake of dozens of mass shootings and 10,000 gun related deaths in the past year, it is obvious that we have not done enough. Despite the limitations and controversy surrounding the recent Connecticut gun laws, it is a significant first step. Lawmakers from both sides came together to address the state’s worst tragedy in its history. However, we will be able to truly evaluate our lawmakers and this law in the coming weeks and months.
If lawmakers simply enacted these reforms to show their commitment to their constituents in the wake of tragedy and then fail to follow up on this law in the future, gun crimes will not decrease. However, if lawmakers stay committed to this issue and continue to implement reforms, then the deaths of those 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary will not have been in vain.