While lawmakers in Hartford debated laws to stem gun violence in the wake of the Newtown massacre, a panel of bloggers at a New Haven “town meeting” took on gun culture—with differing views on where it festers most.
That discussion took place at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School Wednesday afternoon. And it took place in cyberspace.
The occasion was a live-televised town meeting called “After Sandy Hook: In Search Of Answers.” The Independent and WTNH cosponsored the event.
On the Coop stage, WTNH’s Keith Kountz led 10 people—a state legislator, a current and former police chief, mental-health experts, high-school kids, the mother of a slain New Haven teen—through a wide-ranging discussion about guns, mental health, video games, and school security. WTNH suspended its regular programming (sorry, Judge Judy) to air the forum live between 4 and 5 p.m.
That sparked a busier and sometimes livelier discussion at stage left. There, in the wings, sat eight bloggers: New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and reporters from a host of statewide media organizations. They led a live blog of the debate onstage. They discussed the issues with each other and with WTNH viewers and Independent readers following the action from home, as well as with Hillhouse High School students who brought laptops to the event.
To follow the entire live-blog, scroll down to the bottom of this story and click on the “Enter the Event” panel in the Live Event box.
At one point, the bloggers picked up on a point mentioned only in passing on stage: Whether too little public discussion has focused on the rabid gun culture that exists in communities like Newtown, and whether Newtown is “NRA country.”
“I’d say NH [New Haven] has a much stronger gun culture,” wrote Mayor DeStefano.
Another live-blog panelists, reporter Neena Satija of WNPR and the CT Mirror, quickly searched the New York Times website and posted this link to a story about Newtown’s “stiff resistance to gun restriction.”
“Neena - trust me, the people in NH hear gun fire more frequently than in Newtown,” DeStefano responded.
To which Satija responded, “Mayor—Agreed (and as a resident of New Haven for six years, have experienced this myself). Newtown’s culture is more with regards to hunting, gun ownership, recreational shooting ranges, etc.”
“Neena and Mayor DeStefano are bringing up some interesting questions about the meaning of ‘gun culture,’” the Independent’s Thomas MacMillan piped in. “Is it ‘gun culture’ if it’s illegal gun use and not shooting ranges and duck hunting?”
“It’s not the laws, it’s the culture,” added blogger Norma Rodriguez-Reyes of La Voz Hispana. “In Newtown it was the culture to own guns.”
More Guns, More School Safety?
As the panelists onstage touched on the question of whether to post more armed cops or security guards in school buildings, blogger “Alysia” wrote: “Armed guards in school could put our kids at greater risk… And what would we arm these guards with? To effectively combat someone with an AR15 would you not need another gun with as much power? I for one do not want my children in school with that type of firepower… Too much can go wrong.”
“Security officers are there for the safety of students, but that doesn’t mean they carry guns. Police officers can intimidate students, and make them even more nervous about going to school,” responded live-blog panelist Ariela Martin, a Coop student and a New Haven Independent contributing reporter.
Neena Satija added her memories from her school days:
“I think there’s definitely a way to have a security presence in schools that isn’t intimidating for students…having the kids meet the security staff is a big step. But sure, it made me nervous to see policemen with guns in my school. Not enough that I would have wanted them to leave, though.”
Who’s Not Running
Some other selected comments from the live-blog discussion:
From “Marcod”: “Guns don’t kill .. ive had my permit 22 yrs now .. none of my guns have ever jumped out of my safe jumped in my truck and drove themselves to a location and started harming or killing people.”
From Doug Hardy: “One thing that is glaringly apparent to me is that private gun owners lean heavily on the idea they are “law abiding,” but their mental health and well being are not monitored and they are just as susceptible to emotions and bad decisions as anyone else. Whereas, police and military carry these weapons and their performance and mental health are - to a greater extent - monitored by supervisors. If a member of the police force displays erratic behavior, they are disarmed and sent to counseling. This fail-safe isn’t present with private gun owners. ... This is really the core issue. Nearly 300 million guns in circulation and only what amounts to an honor system to monitor how they are stored.”
From Mayor DeStefano: “Justin Elicker, Gary Holder Winfield and Kermit Carolina in the room. I feel like the only one here who is not running for Mayor.”