Commentary: No More Excuses, No More Delays—Time to Pass Post-Sandy Hook Legislation

With the release today of chilling information in search warrants executed in the Newtown school massacre, there are no more reasons or excuses to delay a vote in the General Assembly on post-Sandy Hook legislation. The legislature should pass it next week or the whole effort will begin to look like a sham.

The bipartisan legislative task force was formed with much aplomb in the wake of the shootings with majority Democrats and minority Republicans promising to work together to craft meaningful legislation to address issues stemming from the heartbreaking pre-Christmas rampage. The group set a goal of passing legislation by the end of February. Three working groups were formed (anti-gun violence, school safety, mental health). Overflowing public hearings were held including a final one in Newtown that cost the taxpayers upwards of $10,000 to hold. And what do we have to show for it as of now? Nothing.

This is not to say legislators have not put effort into process. It’s just that like many other attempts to pass meaningful legislation in Hartford, it’s been continuously delayed for many reasons, some of lawmakers own doing, some out of their control.

The biggest culprit standing in the way of getting this done is politics. Despite promises of working together, the process degenerated into business as usual. Many Republicans are hesitant to vote for anything their political base may see as an attack on the Second Amendment. Key Democrats tell The Hanging Shad the GOP wants it both ways: be able to pass post-Sandy Hook laws but be able to go home and say they didn’t do anything radical.

Radical? News 8 reports that one big sticking point to a “bipartisan” agreement is that there are lawmakers who do not want a ban on high capacity ammunition magazines. That would seem to be an easy area of agreement. But then again, there is no such thing in the General Assembly.

One has to wonder, at what price bipartisanship? Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey has been particularly determined to make sure Republicans are on board. But if that requirement means a constant delay on a package—or no package at all—why bother? Democrats, who control both chambers, should do what they always do if that’s what it takes to pass the bills—take them up and pass them even if it’s over the objections of the Republicans.

Gov. Dannell Malloy has not been particularly helpful in the legislature’s efforts. Channeling his inner (or outer) control freak, he threw up his hands when he thought the task force was moving too slowly and proposed his own plan. Of course it was just in time to announce it when Vice President Joe Biden came to the state for an anti-gun violence conference. Strange that he would do that when the special commission he himself formed to come up with recommendations had yet to report.

Yes, it is true the legislature lost a couple of days to the weather and some to religious holidays. But enough is enough. Interest—or courage—to pass anything of significance in Washington is waning. To Connecticut’s embarrassment, other states have moved quicker including neighboring New York. No to mention there are important things to do like, oh, I don’t know, the budget? It’s time for the General Assembly to act or the process will be exposed as nothing more than politics as usual.