THE BLOG
11/04/2014 08:57 am ET Updated Jan 06, 2015

Why Connecticut Parents Should Not Vote for Tom Foley

It is completely unacceptable that Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley said on gun control in the wake of the Newtown shooting, "We're talking about something that happened several years ago. I'm looking down the road. I'm looking ahead. I'm looking at jobs and the economy. I'm not governor and I wasn't governor at the time." I have argued before that nothing threatens public safety more than nearly unchecked access to arms. This is still the case.

We have become so accustomed to school shootings that they are now forgotten within a day or two of the news cycle. Our children deserve better and so it is up to us to elect the right leadership. Here's what we know: when people have unchecked access to weapons, children are mass murdered at school. Violence against women happens. Suicide occurs at far higher rates in states with more gun ownership, despite the fact that gun owners experience the sames rate of depression and mental illness as non-owners.

The father of Santa Barbara shooting victim Chris Martinez blamed his son's death on "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA". He also stated, "Our children deserve a land free from fear." Echoing what anti-gun violence activists around the country feel, Martinez asked, "They talk about gun rights, what about Chris' right to live? When will this insanity stop?" It should be more than unsettling to any thinking, feeling person that although we know what the root of the problem is, we repeatedly fail to hold politicians accountable for shamefully lax stances on guns.

U.S. children are murdered by guns thirteen times more often than in other developed countries are. As a nation, we are fixated on the ebola outbreak, yet 86 Americans are killed by gun violence daily without us considering this to be an epidemic. After Sandy Hook, Connecticut passed some of the strictest gun control in the country, signed by Governor Dan Malloy. Too much is at stake in the Connecticut gubernatorial race to risk electing Tom Foley.

We shouldn't just care about gun violence just because last time it was someone else's kid. Children must be able to attend school without risking getting shot. Martinez's father said, "I don't care about your sympathy. I don't give a shit that you feel sorry for me". I am also tired of the same post-shooting the same post-shooting rhetoric. We are doing a huge disservice to the victims of school shootings and their families by letting the same tragedies occur over and over again.

Unfortunately much of the discussion surrounding the Santa Barbara shooting revolved around the shooter Elliot Rodgers hating women. Of course sexism is a social problem. But it is liberal access to arms that determined the actions he was able to take.

But guns are a feminist issue because they are widely used to commit acts of violence and intimidation against women. Access to a weapon escalates domestic violence situations; women whose partners own a gun are 500 times more likely to be murdered than those with partners who don't, which is why the NRA feminist movement is a joke. Melissa Jeltsen's incredible piece on the death of Laura Aceves demonstrates what happens when weak government is paired with low wages and liberal access to arms: all of these things being key components of the GOP platform.

David Hemenway, the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center explains, "A large percentage of homicides -- and especially homicides in the home -- occur during altercations over matters such as love, money, and domestic problems, involving acquaintances, neighbors, lovers, and family members; often the assailant or victim has been drinking. Only a small minority of homicides appear to be the carefully planned acts of individuals with a single-minded intention to kill... it is just a question of the caliber of the gun, whether a vital organ is hit, and how much time passes before medical treatment arrives."

In 1996, under heavy lobbying from the NRA, Congress slashed funding for research on gun violence from $2.5 million annually in the early 1990s to an insanely low $100,000 per year. Funding was only reinstated by President Obama in 2013, ending a 17-year virtual freeze on the Center for Disease Control conducting gun research.

Additionally, the NRA succeeded in getting lawmakers to restrict how cities are able to share information about gun crimes. How are we a free speech democracy if our citizens are not allowed to know information as basic as how many guns there actually are in the U.S.? If having more guns around really does reduce injuries and fatalities, as pro-gun activists allege, then why suppress research on firearms? The NRA went so far as to threaten the families of scientists researching gun violence. How is this different from how terrorist organizations operate?

Unsurprisingly, the more guns there are, the increasing amount of violent incidents occur. Mississippi has the highest rate of gun ownership nationally, at an astounding 76.8 percent. It is not just happenstance that Mississippi also faces the 2nd highest rate of gun violence. In 2010 alone, 475 Mississippians were murdered by a gun. On the other hand, California just placed new restrictions on semiautomatic weapons.

We must end gun policies based on the fantasy that there need only be a "good guy with a gun" to intervene in a shooting. An excellent Mother Jones investigative piece demonstrates that out of 62 mass shootings in the U.S., not a single time has the assailant been stopped by an armed civilian. Mother Jones explains, "In other recent (but less lethal) rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, those civilians not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed", thus striking down the "good guy with a gun" disillusion. In one case often cited by the NRA, the reason two armed students were able to intervene during a shooting at the University of Virginia Law School is that they were trained police officers -- and the shooter had run out of bullets.

It is complete lunacy that many states are passing legislation that allow guns in public spaces, including bars. Guns only escalate conflict. When guns and drinking mix, and when people are given free access to high caliber weapons without background checks, it is not a matter of if, but when. What did Bobby Jindal expect by allowing guns at bars in New Orleans? This summer's shooting on Bourbon Street in New Orleans is an excellent case and point. It is almost as if he passed the law knowing that people will be killed or severely injured as a result.

Tragically, guns seep across borders from states with sensible gun laws from ones that irresponsibly lack comprehensive background checks. Guns purchased in Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Indiana are responsible for 60 percent of Chicago's gun violence, which predominantly effects low-income people of color. Phil Cook, professor of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University, explains "There is no question that Chicago's murder rate is driven by the availability of guns. Choking off the supply of illegal guns on the street will be critical to reducing murder in Chicago." Until there are gun restrictions like the law California just passed in every single state, it is only a matter of time before there will be another massacre, and this should shame every person who votes for an NRA-backed candidate in the United States.

Last year at New York University, NBC news anchor Joy Reid argued that the gun rights movement is largely founded in racism. Certainly the fear of inter-racial crime is a motivating factor for many gun owners. It has been the reason behind many recent white-to-black shootings, where the "good guy with a gun" argument falls flat on its face. Amanda Robb's GQ piece brilliantly portrays how our national obsession with personal security and fame intersect with being over armed, as she narrates how George Zimmerman's family has tried to capitalize on the murder of an unarmed black teenager. Minority groups are disproportionately the ones affected by gun violence.

What kind of a society have we become when we allow heavily armed, mostly white, men to intimidate women, children and other men in public spaces? The Texas Open Carry movement states that its goal is to "condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry [guns]". Open carry is more than a provocation; it is blatant intimidation. Without comprehensive background checks, how can we be safe in open places without knowing the intentions or mental state of an open gun carrier?

The Open Carry trend is especially deranged when considering that concerned citizens have been harassed raising their concern to local authorities. Of course any sensible person should report a mass collective of armed civilians congregating in an open space because of how easy it would be for these demonstrations to turn into a mass shooting within seconds. Civilians do not need to be "conditioned" to feel comfortable around objects of violence and intimidation. We have an obligation to regulate these militias, as stated by our Constitution.

Tom Foley called Sandy Hook a thing of the past and said he does not have a plan to address gun control in a state where 20 innocent children and six adults were gunned down less than two years ago. As The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky put it so well, the Republican Party "is a party of nihilism that has no desire to solve any social problem, holding the rest of us hostage to its craziness as the bodies mount." Elected officials like CT State Representative Dave Yaccarino who are able to overcome stalemate partisanship and vote against their party to prioritize our children's safety deserve our vote. Politicians like Tom Foley do not. Because our children deserve better.