The bipartisan task force on gun violence held a public hearing on Monday in Hartford during which Newtown victims’ family members, gun rights advocates, members of the public and elected representatives testified on upcoming legislation.
The testimony was sobering. And it revealed an audience of constituents tired of violence, frustrated with the slow pace of legislative change and deeply, deeply divided over the rights of citizens to own (or not to own) assault-style weapons.
As I watched, what struck me most were not the heartbreaking words of the victims. It wasn’t the guarded words of the gun club member or the angry words of the control advocate.
Instead, it was the gentlemen from the high populations centers who deal with the slow, bloody drain of handgun violence every single day. They said, where have you been, Bipartisan Task Force? We’ve been begging for help for years.
They rightly stated that these current efforts, though certainly well intended, won’t do a thing to help victims of violence in the communities of Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. Therefore, I will repeat what needs repeating: any gun control legislation must address more than what is versus what isn’t an “assault” weapon.
It must be about more than just magazine capacity, too. It must even be about more than figuring out a way to incorporate better psychological care into our current health system. Instead, let us strive to end gun violence in all its forms so that our friends in urban areas win the same right to safety that those in quieter locales usually enjoy.
Alert: I’m going to ask the question that no one in the media seems to be asking. Many of you will disagree. And for once, I truly hope you do. And I not only hope you disagree, I hope you write in and tell me why I’m wrong (respectfully, of course … I didn’t enjoy being called a “stupid” “leftist” last week, even though my kids got a huge kick out of it).
Although many gun violence statistics can be twisted to suit a variety of needs the data on urban areas with high crime rates are clear: the victims are most often minorities. These minority victims far outnumber the victims of mass shootings, who tend to be white. To me, it is disappointingly clear that the nationwide effort to “do something” about guns has everything to do with affluence and its favorite cousin, race.
Tell me, where are the marches when young children are murdered on the streets of Chicago, or New Haven, or Washington, or Detroit? Let me be clear: I do not question for one moment the sincerity or intent of the folks from March for Change or CAGV or hell, even the NRA. When an event such as Newtown occurs in our own backyard it is only natural that the local response should be strong and heartfelt and pure.
But I do have serious questions about the value we as a society place on human life. Or, at the very least, I question the validity of developing a legislative response to a societal threat that is directly proportional to the consequences of one action, as occurred in Newtown, versus developing a legislative response to what occurs every day to people of all colors.
Let’s work together to make all forms of violence end, as one reader so aptly wrote to me several days ago. Let’s help our legislators craft a bill that will regulate private gun sales so common criminals can’t get them easily. Let’s make universal background checks strict and repeating. Let’s develop and enforce safe storage laws and train administrators and teachers in effective self defense tactics.
Most of all, let us remember the words written in the hearts of every American: all men are created equal.