President Barack Obama is expected in Connecticut on Monday. He returns to celebrate what he and other longtime gun control advocates see as a shining example of more gun control laws on the books. If he follows his political playbook, he will again raise the false straw man argument of "standing up to the gun lobby."
He arrives as prospects for new federal gun restrictions are diminishing on Capitol Hill, failing of their own weight of proven ineffectiveness. Many Democrats won't support him and for good reason. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no tool of the gun lobby, could find no evidence of the effectiveness of the previous so-called "assault weapons ban" or any other gun control legislation. The Washington Post last week awarded the president three "Pinocchios" for continuing to use an exaggerated number of firearms sales that supposedly occur outside the scope of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS.
The truth is that we all want to make our state and our country safer. We are not the enemy, not in Connecticut, not anywhere else. We have families, too. We do not want to see firearms misused. We represent responsible companies and thousands of employees. We know what works and what is illusory.
We need to start by fixing NICS to include all relevant mental health and other disqualifying records from the states. Second, we need to strictly enforce existing laws to prosecute those who illegally purchase, possess or use firearms in crimes. Third, we must build on programs, such as my organization's Project ChildSafe, that we know work to prevent access to firearms by criminals, the young or at-risk individuals.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that anything in the 139-page, catch-all bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy without benefit of even a careful read by our elected representatives, let alone a hearing in which the bill's language could be debated, will contribute meaningfully to enhanced public safety.
At the 11th hour, much was made of the mental health provisions in the bill. We would have liked to hear more about the thinking behind those provisions in the new law. They seem woefully inadequate when considering the inarguable common denominator of recent mass murders; where types of firearms and magazine capacities have differed, but the mental illness of the perpetrators has been the constant.
Here is what the General Assembly and the governor did accomplish: an Olympic-class double standard in public policy formulation. But outlawing the sale of the most popular style of semi-automatic rifle the law-abiding public seeks, but not its production here, does not guarantee job preservation.
Ours is already an expensive state for manufacturers, so the Connecticut makers of firearms and their components will quickly conduct the due diligence required of their fiduciary responsibilities to businesses whose brand equity surely will be damaged by this double standard. As we can see from social media chatter already well under way, many retail customers in other states will not buy products made in this state.
We can predict lost jobs. Faced with their own new state laws, Colorado manufacturers are already moving from that state. Connecticut companies can either move all their operations or those production lines and jobs making modern sporting rifles. All of our Connecticut companies have in hand letters from other states inviting them to move and offering attractive incentives to do so.
We all abhor the heart-wrenching tragedy that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our hearts go out to the victims' families. But it is difficult to see how what is now law will do anything meaningful to prevent future tragedies.
The legislature has started the clock on pushing out the state's already diminished historic firearms industry. Connecticut's political leaders have been working to make the historic Colt factory building in Hartford a national park. It's the Colt business of today, along with the other manufacturers based here — and the jobs they provide —- that they are willing to see damaged, and for no gain in public safety. It's a shame because it's so unnecessary. It's also become all too political.
Lawrence G. Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered in Newtown.Copyright © 2015, CT Now