90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Connecticut Lawmakers To Debate Gun Laws

State lawmakers in Connecticut begin their new legislative session today at the Connecticut State Capitol, pictured here in 2005. (Wikimedia Commons)

State lawmakers in Connecticut begin their new legislative session on Wednesday at the Connecticut State Capitol, pictured here in 2005. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lawmakers in Connecticut kick off their new legislative session Wednesday, offering a raft of bills to rein in guns, such as banning the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that was used in the Newtown shooting and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

There’s also a proposal to tax bullets, an idea that’s been around for a while but hasn’t passed anywhere in the country.

Connecticut is one of seven states that bans some assault weapons. But it has so many loopholes it didn’t stop Newtown suspect Adam Lanza, whose mother legally owned a Bushmaster that was “Connecticut-legal,” or modified enough to allow residents to own it.

Bills to tighten gun rules in Connecticut have repeatedly failed since the assault weapons ban was passed in 1993. And since Newtown, we’ve learned that Connecticut has an active gun culture and a long history of gun manufacturing.

Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender writes that U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal plans to introduce a bill requiring background checks for purchases of ammunition.

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

    Banning so-called “assault rifles” to reduce firearm related deaths would be as effective as banning sports cars to reduce vehicular deaths. Yes, you might reduce a few deaths – but it would be statistically insignificant. It would be far better to mandate much more rigorous training for anyone wanting to own a firearm (or a car), and improving screening so those that shouldn’t have a firearm (or car) don’t get them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

      My fear is that federal law makers will pass legislation that had no impact the first time around, and then pat themselves on the back and declare “mission accomplished” (it doesn’t work on the state legislation level, either). I see the entire “assault weapons” debate to be a scapegoat that allows lawmakers to avoid tackling much larger & more expensive issues that would truly have greater impact.

      I’m a moderate liberal, but I also own firearms. I have no problem with the idea of requiring background checks on even private gun sales (with serious consequences for the seller). I have no problems with legislation that requires gun owners to be better trained and held more accountable. I don’t think bans work – especially since people with criminal intent won’t follow any laws anyway.

    • Carmel guy

      I would respectfully disagree— you compare assault rifles to sports cars, mentioning the option of reducing vehicular deaths by banning sports cars, which you imply is not a practical option–and I agree. But  I would suggest that you should compare assault rifles not merely to sports cars, but to race cars, which we do ban on our city streets.

      High performance race cars have a time and a place, but not on our public streets. A race car on a public street serves an extremely limited practical purpose. In addition, the sports cars that we do allow on our streets we also strictly control through law, and ban various features and options. 

      Also, what is your definition of “statistically insignificant” when referring to gun deaths, and what evidence do you have to support that claim?

      Would you also extend your argument of rigorous training and screening to allow people to own automatic weapons as well? RPGs? Tanks? The same logic applies. Why should law abiding citizens not be able to own RPGs? What about qualified pilots owning fighter jets?

      You might also recall that in the case of Sandy Hook, as just one of many examples, the screening/training argument would largely be meaningless, as the weapons were acquired and owned by someone other than the shooter.

      • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

        My analogy is based on frequency of death versus the overall category, not the exotic nature of the machine. Assault rifles have been utilized in less than 0.1% of homicides, yet everyone thinks that banning them will somehow have a significant impact on homicide rates.

        If we did want to go with the race car analogy instead of sports car, I would point out that responsible ownership and training are equally important for both firearms and race cars. If some fool were to take their high-powered race car onto our public streets, then serious injury or death would likely result as well.

        • Carmel guy

          You say that “Assault rifles have been utilized in less than 0.1% of homicides, yet everyone thinks that banning them will somehow have a significant impact on homicide rates. ” 

          I’m curious what your source on the .1% is, as the FBI statistics don’t support it or breakdown assault rifle/handgun vs non-assault weapons.  And in addition to homicides, there are roughly 250,000 violent crimes other than homicides where firearms are used— an indeterminate number of those being assault weapons. 

          That said, even if the actual number of homicides attributable to assault weapons (pistols and rifles) was only .1%, I do not find the numbers killed at Sandy Hook, and Aurora this year, or the other 60 or so mass gun killings in the past 20 years in this country to be insignificant.

          If a ban on such weapons could have prevented any one of these numerous mass killings where an assault weapon was used,  I am all for the ban, as the weapons otherwise present no redeeming practical use to hunters, for home defense, or otherwise. They are purely designed for mass killing in war situations.

          • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

            There are over 10,000 firearm related homicides per year, but you think it’s a good idea to spend all of this political will, time & money to ban a weapon category that is used in a statistically insiginificant number of those deaths. That tells me that you don’t care about human life – you just don’t like things that have been labelled with scary names like “assault rifle”.

            A ban on such weapons would not have made any difference in the vast majority of mass shootings in the past 20 years. In fact, there’s several indications that an “assault rifle” wasn’t even used at Sandy Hook. Most reports indicate that Lanza used two handguns.

            AR-15 and AR-10 variants are used by dear hunters all of the time. The difficulty of crafting effective legistlation to ban “assault weapons” is that they are functionally no different from other semi-automatic firearms – so it comes down to how they look.

        • Carmel guy

          You also said  “If some fool were to take their high-powered race car onto our public streets, then serious injury or death would likely result as well.”

          Correct— this is exactly what happened in the case of Mr Lanza, who chose to take his mothers “race car”  (aka assault weapon) into a school.  But I guess you can blame his mother for irresponsible ownership of the guns, which Adam was able to access and use.

          • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

            Mr. Lanza could have just as well taken an car, waited until the playground was full and then repeatedly run over every child he could. The capacity to cause mass harm is not restricted to just guns, no matter that it’s all the recent debates and news coverage seem to imply.

            The problem with Mr. Lanza and others who commit mass murder is that they are mentally and emotionally disturbed. In many if not most cases, there are plenty of warning signs that could have been addressed. 16 – 25 year olds are the most likely age category to commit these horrible acts, and yet they are 85% less likely to receive psychiatric treatment than other age groups. Mrs. Lanza was trying to get her son treatment, but the process takes way too long. Tell me our mental health system isn’t broken.

            If we’re going to reduce frequency of mass murder occurrances, we have to address the people – not the method. Timothy McVey used a moving van and fertilizer, yet he killed 167 people and killed and over 700 people injured in one horrifying moment. 19 of those killed were children.

          • Carmel guy

            I have to respectfully disagree. I am a gun owner, and own a semi-automatic rifle. It is an older rifle, and not what I would call military grade though.

            That said, there is a tremendous difference between cars and guns. Mr Lanza killed inside a building, not on a playground. He could not have done what he did with a car, same with the Aurora movie theater incident and the majority of other mass indoor or outdoor killings.

            Mass killings with a vehicle are much easier to prevent, if that is your goal (fences, concrete barriers, wheel spikes, etc) , and much easier to avoid as a potential victim. Cars clearly are not as effective as semi-automatic guns as mass killing weapons go.

            Guns kill at a great distance, vehicles clearly require close contact. I can much more easily find a hiding place to avoid a car than I can a person running after me shooting small bullets.

            And I would not argue that there are issues with our mental health system. That is a separate issue but related issue. My issue is with particular guns, that have no other practical purpose other than as killing machines. 

            They have the added special capability of being able to kill en masse and at a great distance, which differentiates them from nearly all other available weapons.

            Cars, knives, base ball bats, etc, all have limitations that guns do not, and all have substantially more practical daily uses. 

            And as you mentioned Timothy McVeigh who used fertilizer as the base of a bomb, you might note that substances such as that are also regulated, and purchases tracked by the FBI… Even though nitrogen based fertilizer also has highly practical uses, and much of it has since been modified to aid in the future prevention of such a bomb creation.

            By your logic of just addressing the people and not the method, we should also legalize military tanks, RPGs, fighter jets and fully automatic weapons for sale and use by the mentally competent general public. This I do not agree with.

  • http://twitter.com/paulzink Paul Zink

    Whilst I would like to see stringent ownership limitations on semi-auto military style rifles, as in many western European and Scandinavian countries, I agree with Hung Wasson that rigorous licensing requirements might be more practical – and for drivers’ licenses too. Also, I think ammunition limitations and magazine capacity restrictions would be very helpful, and easily implemented. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

      Thank you for the response, Paul. However, I disagree that magazine capacity restrictions would actually have significant impact on intentional homicides. It’s actually very easy to drop a magazine and load another into a firearm. Also, there have been many cases where a murderer bent on mayhem has simply carried more weapons.

      I know my next statement will be highly controversial, but well trained, certified citizens legally carrying concealed firearms may be the only realistic way to bolster police response when a mass homicide event takes place. I am a big fan of law enforcement, and spent a decade in the field – but they are primarily reactive. They can’t be everywhere, and can’t arrive on scene fast enough to truly have a significant impact in reducing civilian casualties.

  • Drstevenmoos

    Again using the analogy of the car, when MVA fatalities reached an unacceptable level, seat belts were mandated. Similarly, guns–all guns–are inherently unsafe and need to be improved and modernized. There is a device called a “Shot Caller” that calls 911 when a gun fitted with the device is fired.  Using this device–either electively, or by mandate–would improve the current situation, it has numerous secondary benefits, and is not as divisive as other proposals being floated. This could completely change the paradigm and should be explored.  www.gunshotcaller.com

    • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

      Interesting suggestion, Dr. Steven! There are technical and operational hurdles that would have to be overcome. Since many firearms are used for hunting, how would non-emergency legal shooting be handled? I’m not a hunter, but I’m an avid shooter and participate in competitions at my local gun range. How would simply practicing with your firearm (which any gun owner really ought to do on a regular basis) be handled?

      • Drstevenmoos

        The owner can override the call with a code, or by scheduling the gun’s use so that the calls are marked as non-emergent. The benefit is that the device does not interfere with the firing mechanism whatsoever, it can be fitted on all guns, and it could be incorporated into new guns. Gun owners keep their guns (in all their variants–since banning “assault weapons” has never been proven to reduce gun crimes), guns have an added safety feature that enhances their use for self defense, and tragedies (and all gun crimes) diminish.

        • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

          Interesting – but wouldn’t a homicidal person just deactivate the device (or set the calls to be marked non-emergency)? Perhaps it would be better to have ShotCallers that are mounted in public areas (like schools, stores, theaters) and register gun discharges. False positives could be an issue, but with good processing algorithms would help eliminate that. Multiple sensors would allow triangulation of the shots. I’m not certain, but I think that such systems are being tested now.

          • Drstevenmoos

            Most gun crimes (crimes of passion and psychotic breaks) and gun injuries (children, misfires, and suicide) are not premeditated. And this device would reduces the damage caused by fitted guns used by a non-registered owner. Importantly, it also would provide a means to collect the truly dangerous guns (unregistered guns that are not properly respected and maintained). There are simply too many guns available for gun crimes not to occur. It does not prevent the gun from being used for murder, but the shortened police reaction time would save lives–and probably lots of them. Take any of the recent gun crime tragedies, and you will find that, had this device been mandated, the tragedies would have been averted (e.g., CT shooter used a lawfully registered, but not his, gun, as did the Portland mall shooter). This fulfills better than any other single proposal the urgent reason for this debate–the need to prevent another mass murder–and it also would likely have a dramatic effect on all gun-related crimes and injuries. It’s much more cost-effective than most other proposals, as well.

  • irishfireman2001

    You completely misspoke in the beginning of your broadcast when referenceing the use of the Bushmaster AR assault rifle in the Newtown Conn. shooting.

    The shooter DID NOT use the assualt rifle in the shooting.  HE USED TWO PISTOLS  in the shooting. The rifle was locked in the trunk of the vehicle he drove and parked in the parking lot of the school.

    Please get your facts straight before you broadcast such eronious information. Making such mistakes leads me to believe that you are completely biased about this subject and unable to report on this topic from an unbiased informative stance. The continued mistakes of this nature by this program and others on NPR and PRI are inexcuseable and unethical for journalists.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

      Fireman, while I think you are correct – it’s been very hard to find definitive information on the events at Sandy Hook. There’s been a lot of contradictory information thrown about by different “eye witnesses” talking to the media. I heard one police official discribe hallways littered with rifle casings, and this was AFTER it was reported that the rifle was found locked in the trunk of the car.

      I would very much like a factual report to be released by Newtown law enforcement. They can’t be worried about compromising a case, since the shooter is dead. I think it’s more likely that they don’t want to release any information until they are sure that they have all their facts straight….

  • http://www.ohioken.com Ken Palosi

    There are two problems with your statement. First of all no sports car has ever been used as a weapon to murder twenty innocent children. Then we have the fact that Adam Lanza’s mother not only bought the weapons that were used for him she also took him to a range where he received training in their proper use: this was all in a misguided attempt to teach a mentally unbalanced son responsibility.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hung.wasson Hung Wasson

      She apparently failed to store the firearms in an appropriate manner (though I must withhold judgement until all the facts of the tragedy are disclosed). If the guns were in a safe, but she made the mistake of giving her unbalanced son the combination, then that was a tragic error in judgement.

      In terms of vehicular deaths, you’ve just got to be kidding me. Careless, unintentional and intentional homicides have been committed using a vehicle almost from their inception. Many innocent children have died on our roads. The fatality rates on our nation’s highways are greater than firearm fatality rates, yet obtaining a license to drive a vehicle is laughably easy in this country (not to mention the fact that many people drive illegally).To say that you can’t compare gun deaths to vehicle deaths (since I can tell you’re already heading down this path) doesn’t carry weight with me, if tragic loss of life is really what is at issue.

      We need to find realistic and intelligent ways to reduce both. Automobiles have been made safer, but we still need to work on the drivers. It may be possible to make firearms safer – but by far the more important factor to address is the shooter.

  • Justin_Tm

    Is it not possible to post a similar reply to two separate but related stories?
    I heard your conversation on NPR and wanted to post here, but posted to a related story.
    Please see my post to  “Biden Meets With Gun-Safety, Victims Groups”

    • Justin_Tm

       P.S.: Or see post to “N.Y. Governor To Propose Tougher Gun Rules”

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

July 21 Comment

Boxing Attracts More Than Would-Be Fighters

At the Ring Boxing Club, boxers range in age, are both men and women, and include an award-winning author.

July 21 Comment

Why Hot Cars Are So Deadly

An average of 38 kids die in a hot car every year in the U.S. We look at the science of why cars get so hot so fast, and why children are more vulnerable.

July 18 28 Comments

A Conversation With Immigrant Activist Jose Antonio Vargas

We sit down with the immigrant-rights activist, who has written extensively about the fact that he has been living illegally in the U.S. for years.

July 18 4 Comments

Will Israel Widen The War And Will Hamas Run Out of Rockets?

What will drive Israel's decision? What are the strategic calculations Hamas is making and how will it emerge from this conflict?