The passage of Connecticut’s new gun law last week saw 44 “No” votes in the House of Representatives, and probably as many reasons for them. Some of the “No” votes contradicted each other.
On Monday morning, April 8, 2013, I heard State Representative Craig Miner on 99.1 FM WPLR on Chaz and AJ’s show.
I’ve known Rep. Miner since he was a first selectman in Litchfield in the mid-1990s when I was a cub reporter out in the hills. Miner is an automatic Republican vote against gun control, an outdoorsman and former Boy Scout Troop Leader.
Chaz and AJ had him on to discuss the particulars of the bill, now the strictest in the nation. Miner, a co-chair of the gun violence prevention task force that helped author portions of the bill, voted against it. Yet, so did my Representative, Douglas McCrory. They were two of about 44 no votes.
Connecticut Against Gun Violence hit me with an email last week informing me of McCrory’s “No” vote. I was incensed, so I called McCrory, leaving a long message. His assistant, Kellie Guilbert, called me back promptly and told me in short, that McCrory voted no because there wasn’t money for prevention.
She emailed me the video from CT-N, but I hadn’t a chance to watch prior to getting on the air to ask Miner a question. Miner could not reconcile his no vote with McCrory’s no vote. I explained what Kellie told me, assuming that a state house aide would not misconstrue her boss’ rationale for casting a vote.
Miner corrected me, saying McCrory expressed to him similar reservations about the bill that he had, and Miner said he did not think McCrory was against the bill because it didn’t under the impression McCrory had similar misgivings about the bill that he did.
To be sure that Kellie had it right, I spent an hour yesterday listening to McCrory’s 26 minute speech on the floor of the House, during the debate the night of April 3, 2013.
McCrory asked a few questions about the gun offender registry and criminal possession of ammunition. Perhaps this is where Miner and McCrory found agreement. I don’t doubt that they talked, as McCrory proclaims himself to be the most bipartisan legislator in the chamber.
McCrory seemed outraged at a two-year mandatory minimum for possession of a bullet if you are under the age of 21 if you have an altercation that leads to a third degree assault charge. Although unsaid, McCrory seemed focused on how this would impact his young male constituents, who already are targeted by poverty and racism and the war on drugs.
Me, I’m wondering why the legislature still doles out mandatory minimums, usurping the judiciary’s discretion. I thought the drug war taught us something. Apparently not.
And if that gimmick isn’t enough, the legislature trotted out another tried and true “tough on crime” tactic with a gun offender registry to scar a gun felon for life, I am not sure I like this either. I thought we learned justice for Hester Prynne meant not having to wear a Scarlet “A” on her chest.
The task force that came up with this did not include McCrory, and he wasn’t happy about that. That group had nine senators and seven representatives. Of those 16, there was one black man (Sen. Eric Coleman), one black woman (Rep. Toni Walker – a Dem from New Haven), and one Latina (Rep. Rosa Rebimbas – a Republican from Naugatuck).
Rep. McCrory’s lack of confidence that his district was well represented has basis, then. During his speech on the floor, he talked about how a month and a half ago, he had a community forum in his district around the issue of gun violence.
The morning of the forum, his aide Kellie, told him that Nilda Marquez-Green and another member of Sandy Hook Promise wanted to be a part of dialogue. He said Nilda was polite and didn’t want to intrude on dialogue.
“I was hesitant because I didn’t want to make this an event. I wanted solutions to gun violence in my urban community,” McCrory said.
McCrory allowed Nilda to speak, because she was born and raised in Hartford and had been through the crucible of losing her daughter. “When the dialogue begun, I was confronted by a grandmother who had lost her loved one a few years back,” McCrory continued.
“In the past 10 years in capital city, we have had over 300 murders. This grandmother came to me in front of all my colleagues and all those individuals and looked me in my eyes and said to me, the only reason why you are here is because of what happened in Sandy Hook,” McCrory told the House. I will quote him at length here:
“I had no response. It was the first time in my professional or political career that I could not come up with an appropriate response to a constituent. I was hurt because what she said to me was absolutely right. She was on point and I didn’t know how to respond
“As the dialogue continued, Nilda Marquez-Green spoke so candidly and openly and so honestly and what she did was connect the pain, the hurt, the struggle, the empathy and sympathy of the families in Newtown, Connecticut with the families in Hartford, Connecticut.
“She was outstanding. I will never forget the line she said, quoted in the paper: She said that she was ovehwhelmed and kind of embarrassed by the amount of attention that her family and the families in Newtown received from people all over this world, and she felt as though it was unfair.
“It was unfair that the fact because of where she lived the concern and care of everybody in this world was different than the concern and care for the mothers and grandmothers who live in the north end of Hartford. You could not find a dry eye in the church, including myself.
“She linked those two communities that night forever. She made it real, and I respect her and the families of Newtown CT for doing that. The pain that they felt that December afternoon is the pain that these families have been having in these cities for years.”
I will interrupt McCrory and Nilda for a moment to remind readers that Adam Lanza isn’t the only madman who kills children. A group called NATO bombed a village in Afghanistan this week and killed 11 babies.
Media buried NATO’s latest massacre, but the pictures of the tiny corpses lined up to be interred hurt as much as the scenes from Sandy Hook. And I’ll be damned if I can’t find green ribbons everywhere for those kids, as much collateral damage of capitalism as Adam Lanza’s victims.
I don’t think I need to explain how gun makers through their mouthpiece the National Rifle Association protect profits and enrich themselves through scaremongering and blocking sensible gun legislation. Yet here McCrory was, voting against sensible gun control. His speech from the floor continued:
“It is a shame in itself that I could not respond to that grandmother, and tonite I want to publicly apologize for not being there for those families who lost loved ones year after year after year. And it is not like we haven’t tried to change gun laws in Connecticut before this evening.
“My colleague Rep. Dargan (who was also on the prevention task force) has said that, but we couldn’t get it done. It was stated earlier that we put funding in for the gun trafficking task force, and I think that is a good thing.
“The comment was said: This will be a strong investment in the inner cities. You think about that. We need to fund a gun task force for it to be an investment. If you want to invest in these inner cities, invest in the human capital that exists there. Provide opportunity for the young people who are not caught up in this foolishness of gun violence.
“When you listen to us, Fight for more programs that prevent. When you listen to us, fight for more after school activities because the children who live in those communities do not have the options that others have. It is no one’s fault. That’s the ball they was given to play with. It’s not like we want something that we don’t deserve. What those children want is opportunity.”
This is where Rep. McCrory lost me. The poverty infecting the City of Hartford, the poorest zip codes in the United States, is someone’s fault. There are 300 people on this planet who have more wealth than 3 billion people.
The logic of capitalism is winners and losers. Hartford has some winners, but many more losers. And it is all of our fault for accepting an economic system that allows children to go so hungry that their brains develop differently. That violence against youth on a massive scale across not just the Capital City, but across the globe over decades, centuries, is more atrocious that Adam Lanza’s one-day massacre.
Yet no one is making laws to redistribute wealth. Why? McCrory’s speech, which talked about attending a funeral for a victim of gun violence – another day in America, did address the unequal distribution of resources. But his two positions are at odds with each other.
Talking about the two murders on Capen and Barbour, a block from each other and next to an elementary school, McCrory wondered “Don’t you think those children know what happened in their communities? Don’t you think those children need mental health services right now? Don’t those families need counseling right now?”
McCrory was clear that once this gun bill passes, the state will “pick and choose who gets those supports.” And McCrory’s no vote became clear through his thunder.
“Shame on us for doing that! Shame on us for deciding that after we pass this legislation, some communities will get the support they need and others won’t. God help us if we come to that point, that we are going to pick and choose. It is not right. It is just not right.”
Yet, that is capitalism, Representative McCrory. We do pick and choose, every day. Our acquiescence to this economic system allows the winners to continue to win, and the losers to flounder.
So while Miner may have been right that McCrory had other apprehensions about the bill, McCrory’s main problem with the bill was its lack of solutions for urban gun violence.
“If you ask me as an educator, the grade I give to this piece of legislation I give is incomplete,” he said. “It is incomplete because it doesn’t speak to the issue of gun violence that has permeated our cities in this great state. I would argue that the the title of bill ‘An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention’ is a misnomer because we don’t have a dollar of prevention in this bill.”
To hear McCrory speak like that from the floor made me proud of him. He deserves congratulations for his protest vote. Although one wonders if the Democrats needed his vote on this one, would he still have had the courage to say “No” for the reasons above? I hope so, and I hope he continues to advocate like this in the future.