Connecticut’s Conundrum: Blaming the Gun Rather Than the Criminal?

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Displaced Blame in the Sandy Hook Shooting

American politicians have a tendency to take the easy way out when there is a difficult problem. We have seen this in the illegal alien problem, the congressional exemption problem, and the voter fraud problem, but nowhere is this lackadaisical attitude more apparent than in the issue of gun violence in the United States. As Americans, we have a right to own firearms – it is enshrined in the Bill of Rights as one of the main protections that we enjoy with our citizenship.

However, as human beings we have a right to be safe in our home, our daily lives, and especially in the schools in which our children attend. For many politicians, especially those that do not understand firearms, these two rights are mutually exclusive. As with most things, politicians are wrong on this issue.

The Role of Adam Lanza and His Parents’ Remington Gun

On December 14, 2012, the children at Sandy Hook Elementary were counting down the days until Christmas vacation, where they would spend time opening presents with loved ones and family. Those dreams of happiness were stolen from those children and their parents when Adam Lanza, a local 20 year old with severe mental problems, broke into the school and shot 20 children between the ages of six and seven years old.

This was the deadliest school shooting in the history of the United States. Unfortunately, logical discussion on the problem of school violence and mental health was quickly swept under the table by gun control nuts blaming Remington as well as the gun, letting the killer off the hook.

Court Decision

The recent decision by the Connecticut Court to ignore the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in relation to its position on state laws. The plaintiffs in the case, the lawyers representing the families of those who were murdered by Adam Lanza, argued that Remington should be held liable because of the way in which the weapon is marketed.

A lower court had dismissed the case, citing that the action was barred because of the PLCAA. The Connecticut Higher Court overturned this ruling stating “The regulation of advertising that threatens the public’s health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the states’ police powers.” This end around is a broken argument. Adam Lanza did not purchase the firearm. It belonged to his mother, which means that the advertising, and thus the reason for purchase, is not directly related to this case. The justices likely knew this, as well as they knew that this case will be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Connecticut Supreme Court Places Blame

On the subject, we had an opportunity to talk to Connecticut Representative Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, a rising star of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, who had the following comments on the issue. “The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision in part holding that the plaintiffs do in fact have standing to proceed with their wrongful death claim under the theory that the sale of ‘military style assault weapons’ to Lanza’s mother violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practice Act (CUTPA) and that their claim was within the statute of limitations.

Despite this, the plaintiff has a very high threshold to overcome because the Supreme Court ruled only on the basic elements needed to file a case, that the case is filed by the correct party and that it is filed within the time limitations. The merits of the case, whether the defendant’s marketing of the rifle violated state law and whether such violation caused the underlying deaths, have yet to be decided.”

On the subject, we had an opportunity to talk to Connecticut Representative Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, a rising star of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, who had the following comments on the issue. “The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision in part holding that the plaintiffs do in fact have standing to proceed with their wrongful death claim under the theory that the sale of ‘military style assault weapons’ to Lanza’s mother violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practice Act (CUTPA) and that their claim was within the statute of limitations. Despite this, the plaintiff has a very high threshold to overcome because the Supreme Court ruled only on the basic elements needed to file a case, that the case is filed by the correct party and that it is filed within the time limitations. The merits of the case, whether the defendant’s marketing of the rifle violated state law and whether such violation caused the underlying deaths, have yet to be decided.”

ArmaLite – 15

Many sites are arguing that the civilian AR-15 is a “military grade” rifle, which has been marketed exclusively to military for combat actions. Groups such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence are half right in this measure. The fully automatic versions of these types of guns are marketed to armies around the world; however, the semi-automatic version, which was used by Adam Lanza are marketed as sport rifles and personal defense weapons. As Adam Lanza did not use this weapon in either a “sporting” or “defense” capacity, even if the case was allowed to proceed under the erroneous ruling of the Connecticut Court, it should be dismissed as the facts do not match the claim.

How Does Big Tobacco Fit?

The attorney for the families of Sandy Hook, Josh Koskoff, is making the argument that the advertising campaign used by Remington was similar to the campaign used by Big Tobacco prior to the landmark lawsuit showing that they were, in fact, marketing to children. Even if Koskoff’s argument is valid, which there is some concern over, the fact remains that Adam Lanza did not buy the gun, his mother did.

Possible Prevention

Unfortunately, the case of Sandy Hook is an example of many problems coming together to create a major catastrophe. There are clear issues that could have been given greater attention and may have prevented this tragedy from happening. Here are a few of them:

  1. Better psychological screening for people in the United States
  2. Radio stations such as Anarchist Radio being held liable for spreading hateful messages and not reporting the disturbing rants of Adam Lanza to proper authorities
  3. Active efforts by the FBI to shut down websites dedicated to bomb making, mass shootings and serial killer worship
  4. Universal background checks for people buying guns that do no infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens (i.e., no records for those who pass the check)
  5. Better security in our schools
  6. The list goes on

More Laws Won’t Solve It

The fact of the matter is that with over 5 million AR-15 rifles in private ownership in the United States, only one rifle was used illegally, by a person who possessed it illegally after obtaining it illegally, to enter into a gun free zone, which is illegal, and use the gun on 22 different counts of illegal activity.

Gun control advocates can argue all they want that we need new gun laws, but history (and modern news) has shown us that criminals will not follow the laws. Murder is already illegal, pretty much world wide – therefore, new laws will likely not eliminate the problem.

How to Not Repeat History

There are some efforts that we can make to ensure that these types of problems do not happen again. Some of these are more invasive than the gun lobby would like, but there is a need to make sure that people are safe:

  1. Require the background check information to inquire as to there is a person living in the household, or that stays regularly as a place of residence in the household that has mental problems, diagnosed, or diagnosed, known to the person applying for the background check.
  2. Eliminate Soft Targets. Our schools are open targets for people with bombs, acid, knives, or homemade weapons. Guns are not the only threat. We need active suppression on threats in high priority targets. If those in Washington and the State Capitals who are elected representatives are getting armed protection in their gun free zones, don’t children in school deserve at least the same protection?
  3. Look at the culture of violence. Too often reports accuse the video game community of being at fault for mass killings, even though numerous studies have shown that gaming actually reduces aggressive tendencies in most people. We give violent music, violent movies, and violent rhetoric from talking heads on the news a pass – but should we?
  4. Empower schools and communities to have proper psychological support services. Red flag laws can be effective if it is limited in scope to enough probable cause to secure a warrant. In the same vein, we need to understand that “red flag” confiscations only prevent probable crimes. If no crime is found within 30 days – then the weapons must be returned (as long as they are legal). If law enforcement abuses this power and seizes weapons from a person with no probable cause, there should be a civil rights action as there is a due process and civil rights violation present.

Common Sense, Isn’t

Simple common sense efforts like this should be efforts that everyone can agree on. Someone with diagnosed psychopathic tendencies should not be in possession of a firearm, nor should convicted felons or people with psychological or less than honorable discharge from the military. We should also be able to agree that a person who is posting suicidal, bullying, or threatening messages on social media, regular news sources, radio, or online talk shows or podcasts should not have access to firearms, bladed weapons, dangerous chemicals, or bomb making materials.

Have The Conversation

This nation needs to have a strong conversation about preventing violence, but this conversation cannot be dominated by arguments about taking guns away from law abiding people. It is the criminals who are going to commit the crimes, not the law abiding citizens.

Murder is illegal, possession of a firearm in a gun free zone is illegal, conspiracy to commit murder, or a terrorist attack is illegal, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is illegal – yet criminals ignore these laws.

Why would they pay attention to a new gun regulation. We need to look for progressive, not liberal methods to control the violence in the United States today. If we look at the pattern of mass shootings in the United States as well as abroad, there are clear patterns of psychological problems and affiliations with radical ideologies. Dealing with the root cause of the problem, rather than chasing down the symptoms can be more effective and save more lives.

Let’s Use the First to Discuss the Second Amendment

Those of us who support the Second Amendment need to be open to discuss that some people should not have guns. Those who advocate change need to accept the fact that it is criminals, not law abiding gun owners, that commit crimes. Any “Hitleresque” gun registration program at the federal level does not make us more safe, it makes people more vulnerable.

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer is a writer for NRN and an adjunct professor at both Penn State University and the University of South Florida. He is the author of several books, most recently “A Criminal History of the Democrat Party” which is available on Amazon and via the publisher, Elite Exclusivity. Follow on Twitter at @Acriminalhisto1

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