As you may have heard, Connecticut Thursday passed what has been billed as the nation’s strictest gun control bill. According to the AP, “the new legislation would add more than 100 firearms to the state’s assault weapons ban and create what officials have called the nation’s first dangerous weapon offender registry.” I haven’t taken the time to research whether this truly represents the strictest gun control bill in any state, but it’s certainly better than anything we have on a national level.
And while that’s great for Connecticut, what does it mean for the country as a whole? Anything?
One who thinks as I do might hope the legislation represents just a first step in the fight against gun violence. But given that national gun control legislation has run into some serious obstacles, it’s tempting for pessimists like me to dismiss Connecticut’s success — and the public support the bill received there — as purely a product of the horrific events at Sandy Hook late last year. It’s not crazy to suppose that the citizens of Connecticut are just more motivated to get something done than the rest of the country.
And that may be true to some extent. To be sure, it’s no accident that the country’s strongest legislation was passed in Connecticut. But in all fairness to the American public, I refuse to believe that the emotional impact of the shooting withered up and died as the broadcast signals crossed state lines: a shot-up school full of children is a shot-up school full of children, whether in Newtown, Des Moines, Oakland, or Tallahassee (chas v’shalom x 4), and most every American experienced the tragedy in an intense — if not deeply-personal, right-next-door — way. And so, the logical extension of that refusal is the conclusion that legislation in Connecticut has something to contribute to the debate currently raging across the rest of the country.
Indeed, chalking up the legislation solely to local tragedy does the people of Connecticut — and the country as a whole — a disservice, and more importantly, masks the very real and unique obstacles proponents of gun control faced there. Every state is different, with its own constellation of circumstances and considerations and constituencies that will all play a role the success of local gun control initiatives. And with that caveat, I would ask you to consider the bill that passed in Connecticut, momentarily set aside the tragic events that took place there in particular, and focus on one type of factor in particular: economic.
I currently live in Connecticut, a ten-twelve minute walk from law school, on a street called Winchester Avenue. I should have recognized that name when I read my address for the first time — or better, when I was welcomed to New Haven by the sound of about a dozen gun shots* — but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized the dilapidated old building at the end of my block (literally, right down the block) is the old Winchester Repeating Arms Company factory. I was familiar with the Winchester “brand” from its limited use in the Civil War and its adoption by Teddy Roosevelt — it just hadn’t occurred to me that the gun manufacturer bore (pun intended) any relationship to the street I currently call home.
Continue reading Connecticut got gun control: should the NRA be worried?