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Gun-control panel in Darien turns to talk of culture change

Published 5:33 pm, Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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  • U.S. Representative Jim Himes speaks at the Darien Library during a discussion about gun violence prevention on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Photo: Lindsay Perry / Stamford Advocate
    U.S. Representative Jim Himes speaks at the Darien Library during a discussion about gun violence prevention on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Photo: Lindsay Perry

 

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U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., joined state and community leaders in a panel discussion Saturday in calling for stricter gun-control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Himes said much of the national conversation has appeared to be split down the middle, with constituents either being for pro-gun rights or anti-gun rights. But Himes said the argument isn't that simple.

"I happen to enjoy shooting. I guess that makes me pro-gun," said Himes, referring to hunting. "I happen to support good regulations of guns. I guess that makes me anti-gun."

Himes spoke as part of a panel discussion, including state Attorney General George Jepsen and Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello, focusing on gun-violence prevention hosted by the Democratic Town Committee at the Darien Library.

Himes and others said the arguments from the NRA and other gun-rights advocates about the Second Amendment does not mean restrictions can't be placed on that right.

"No right in this country is absolute," Himes said. "You do not have absolute rights anywhere, in particular when it concerns things that are very dangerous.

A classic example is freedom of expression, but you do not have a right to shout fire in a crowded theater. In the same regard, efforts to regulate a very dangerous technology are not efforts to obliterate a constitutional right."

Lovello said he's a firm believer in the Second Amendment, but said given the availability of assault rifles and other weapons, it needs to be dialed back.

"I don't think the Founding Fathers could have imagined the speed and efficiency of which we kill each other," Lovello said. "We're killing each other at an alarming rate; I don't think the Founding Fathers could have contemplated that."

Lovello said Darien is an extraordinarily safe community, and there are a large number of responsible gun owners in town. In the past three years alone, roughly 1,000 guns have been registered in Darien, Lovello said.

Within those three years, Darien police have seized and kept a little less than 100 as a result of domestic violence incidents, arrests or search warrants. Connecticut law states that firearms must be seized from a home in the event of reported domestic violence.

One woman asked the panel how she should counter the argument that a gun in a home will make the home a safer place in the event of an intruder. In Connecticut, guns must be locked up if there are children in the house.

"I don't think that a gun in the home makes it safe; get a dog," Lovello said. He said he felt a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a suicide, as opposed to deterring an intruder.

Of the average 31,000 gun-related deaths per year in the United States, 19,000 of those were suicides, according to Lovello, who added that guns were "ruthlessly more efficient" in suicide. The remaining 12,000 deaths were homicides.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence for the past 11 years, said the nation is watching Connecticut and the state must act now to implement strict gun control measures. "I believe that the tipping point has been reached," Pinciaro said. "The country is literally watching what's happening in Connecticut."

The concern of some panel members was that if the issue of gun control wore on for more than a year, the citizen support would dwindle. "We need people involved in the long haul," Jepsen said.

MSpicer@bcnnew.com;203-972-4407;twitter.com/Meg_DarienNews