Response from my Congressman
Love. This. Guy!!
Obviously, the big news this week was the President’s announcement on new gun control measures. And given all of the developments and debate, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know where I stand on gun violence, gun control and where these issues fit under the Second Amendment.
As I told some news reporters this week, I look at the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary (and others) from a few different perspectives: First and foremost, I see this tragedy, like we all do, through the eyes of a parent.* There is nothing more devastating that I can think of than the thought of losing my sons. *But to lose them at such an early age and in such a senseless and needless way is beyond unimaginable. And regardless of your political persuasion, I don’t think there is anything that any of us wouldn’t do to prevent such a tragedy.* Period.
But I also see tragedies like this through the eyes of a thirty-seven year veteran of law enforcement.* I see the facts as they are.* I see the events that led up to the tragedy. I see the individuals and forces involved. And I also see the steps that could’ve been taken to prevent it.* **
Finally, as your member of Congress now, I am also responsible for seeing tragedies like this through the lens of a policymaker - a man who is responsible for making decisions about what our laws will be and how we will govern the nation under the limits set forth by the Constitution - something that my colleagues and I took a solemn oath to uphold and defend.
This isn’t a simple thing to reconcile – the urge to do everything possible, the realization that some of those things would work in reality and some of those things won’t, and most importantly for me now as a member of Congress, the obligation to make my decisions in accordance with the principles and responsibilities I have sworn to uphold and abide by.
So given these things, where do I come down on in the debate?
The law enforcement officer in me can tell you with certainty that while we would all like to live in a world without killers and violence, such a world has never existed.* And it probably never will.* Our entire human history shows that sad truth. The frightening reality is that when a deranged individual has become set on doing harm to others, regardless of the consequences to himself, there is very little that can be done to stop him.*
So as a father (and a responsible gun owner), I will tell you that for millions of us Americans, “doing whatever is necessary to protect our loved ones” means bearing arms and being willing to use them when that deranged man, bent on doing harm, comes crashing through our door.*
And it’s important to note that this scenario doesn’t necessitate the criminal having a firearm.* In fact, the very first murder case I ever responded to involve a deranged man wielding a metal pipe.* And the same is true for mass murder.* In our country, we’ve seen mass killings involving explosives, arson, knives, and Tylenol bottles laced with cyanide.* Virtually any weapon will do. And the reality is that banning a certain kind of gun won’t change that.* And yet in the current debate, much of the focus is on the military-style “assault weapons” and the size of ammunition clips.* Comparatively little focus is on the mental health issues that lead individuals to commit such heinous crimes.
And this is why the distinction matters:* What many people who aren’t familiar with firearms don’t realize, and what many in the media don’t explain, is that beyond the appearance of “assault weapons”, there is little functional difference between an AR-15 assault rifle and a .30-06 hunting rifle.* Both are semi-automatic weapons meaning they have the same rate of fire – one round is discharged each time the trigger is depressed.* And in fact, other than the appearance, the main difference is that the .30-06 hunting riffle causes far more physical damage to whatever it hits than the AR-15.* But despite these facts, no one is considering (and rightly so) banning the .30-06 hunting riffle.* The “assault riffle” is being singled out for its appearance and its appearance alone.
That’s the first fact.
The “high capacity magazine” is the other focus of gun reformers.* And if a person didn’t know better, that argument might sound like it had merit.* But I can tell you, after almost forty years in law enforcement, that the capacity of a magazine is in the end, of little consequence to a mass murderer.* That is because an individual with no formal training and only a small amount of practice can learn to reload a low-capacity magazine very quickly. Even in the hands of an amateur, reloading a magazine can be completed in about a second or a second and a half.* So a person planning on storming a school simply carries more magazines and swaps them out more quickly.*
But consider now a responsible gun owner in his bathrobe trying to defend his family against a deranged murderer.* He probably can’t carry multiple magazines – he only has the one loaded in his weapon.* And now, post-President Obama’s proposal, he has fewer shots left to defend his children.* That’s how the other side sees it and it’s important that proponents of gun control measures understand that.
In the end, would the children at Sandy Hook Elementary still be alive if the killer had used a different riffle or had lower-capacity magazines?* I cannot tell you that.* No one can.* But in my professional opinion, I believe the outcome sadly would have been the same.* That sober assessment is based on the facts I have seen first hand over the course of many years in law enforcement.
So in addition to the overwhelming ineffectiveness of the President’s proposals, I am also faced with the significant issue of the Constitution.* The words in the Second Amendment – the ones I have taken a sacred oath to support and defend – say the rights of the people to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”* President Obama, who has taken that same oath, has put forward proposals that, in my opinion, do infringe.* So I cannot support them – either on the merits or on the grounds of Constitutional permissibility.
But as a father, I do believe strongly that we must act.* And as a law enforcement officer, I know that the key is addressing the mental health issues that drive an individual to kill – not just try to change the tool he uses to do it.* And that is why, long before the Sandy Hook tragedy, I began working with Senator Al Franken on legislation that would improve the way that law enforcement and others respond to mental health crises.* Because when mental health problems go undetected, misunderstood, and untreated, tragedies like this can and do occur.*
It will take thoughtful consideration and a commitment of resources to make sure this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen again.* And as I told the reporters earlier this week, I really want to thank Sen. Franken and to give him credit for working with me on this.* At the end of the day, he may be a liberal Democrat and I may be a conservative Republican, but when it comes to bipartisan issues like mental health and protecting our children, there is no reason we can’t work together to find bipartisan solutions.
So as the gun control debate continues, and Senator Franken and I likely remain on opposite sides of it, know that he and I will be continuing to work together quietly together to improve and expand our mental health legislation in hopes of finding a solution that not only will work in protecting American families, but also one that all of our colleagues – on both sides – can get behind and support. *That, as we see it, is our responsibility as congressional leaders.* We have to find the common ground and we have to find solutions.*
As always, thank you for your time.* And if there is anything my staff or I can do to be of service, please let me know.
Member of Congress