New Haven Vs. Newtown: Which Is Gun Town?

Melissa Bailey PhotoWhile 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.”

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posted by: Wildwest on January 30, 2013  8:55pm

I think someone here has a man crush on DeStefano

posted by: MsMoneypenny on January 31, 2013  4:23am

I’ve always felt safe in New Haven. I would NOT feel safe in a place where gun culture thrives, where “sportsmen” have ranges and hunt, where every other yahoo feels they have to have a gun “to feel safe” or “to defend themselves against (imaginary) government forces. I’m not necessarily singling out Newtown- a lot of towns are like this- but it IS home to a large gun group and the shooter’s mother herself was part of that culture, part of the problem. No, thanks!

posted by: Atwater on January 31, 2013  9:48am

Yours is a very demeaning generalization of the “gun culture” that might exist in the less urban areas of our state and our nation. I use the word “might” because it is my experience that the gun culture which exists in the more rural areas is one that emphasizes safety and responsibility. Sportsmen who hunt, or people who hunt their own food, are probably the safest gun owners. For them the gun is just a tool to procure food and, in dire circumstances, to defend their property and family.
The gun culture in New Haven and other cities is one of chaotic violence, illegal ownership and general disregard for the laws of our society. 500 dead in Chicago and you’d opine that the “gun culture” in non-urban areas is more dangerous? Spree shootings are rare and do not reflect the general attitude in regards to the ownership and use of firearms in towns like Newtown. However, the horrific gun violence of the inner-city does reflect it’s “gun culture” and, to a certain degree, its culture overall.
I’ve lived in both New Haven and in one of the state’s smaller, more rural, towns. And I will say that I’ve witnessed more violence (with and without guns) in New Haven then I ever have in the small town of my childhood. To the point, in my 19 years of living in Clinton there was one murder by gun. In the five years I lived in New Haven there were significantly more, including one a block from my apartment. Not to mention countless muggings, assaults, break-ins, etc.

posted by: jim1 on January 31, 2013  3:13pm

I was a gun dealer for 25 years.  I am for any new laws that will stop these kinds of things. But none of the guns that I own have made a move without me. So to blame the gun is wrong. To put a cop in the school is wrong. And to blame the AR 15 that was found in his car is wrong. Look back at these people that have done these types of things and there were signs. Look at the man in AZ. his guns should have been taken away after the police report.. I could go on but you can see where this is going. We {the police don’t enforce the laws that we have or let them plead them away for some other crime. Lets get with it and do the right thing and get these nuts help. And I mean now. And to make people that follow the law have to register there guns is a crime into itself.  I will not. It takes 1/2 for a cop to roll on a call?? It takes my 357 mag 1900 Feet Per Second to take of the problem.

posted by: Atwater on January 31, 2013  4:23pm

How is requiring gun registration a crime? I think it is a reasonable expectation of gun owners.
As for the AR-15 and other assault weapons, I am all for as many hoops and as much red tape as it takes to deter illegal obtainment and possession by people who should not be allowed access to such firepower. There is no need for civilian ownership of assault weapons. And, despite what many NRA types might imply, desire and need are not equivalent. There may be a desire to own assault weapons, but adults should be able to weigh their own self-interests against the interests of the greater community. To allow the legal sale and ownership of such weapons is irresponsible and creates the potential for acts of violence that result in mass casualties.

posted by: jim1 on January 31, 2013  4:54pm

to atwater so lets blame AAA for cars that go fast. and shops on Chaple St. that make people double park in a 2 lane road.  Lets get real with the problem it’s not the gun its the person.

posted by: Atwater on January 31, 2013  6:36pm

No, we don’t AAA for cars that go too fast, but we do penalize such drivers when they are caught and sometimes the penalty even includes suspension and/or revocation of driving privileges. Also, cars require registration, why should guns be any different? You’re right personal responsibility plays a big part, but the gun seems to be the preferred tool of the criminal and criminally insane. So, we must limit access to them, even if it means imposing a few inconveniences on lawful citizens. Sure, I don’t like standing in line at the DMV, but I know it’s necessary, so I whine a bit and grumble, but I comply because I want the privilege of owning and driving a car. To defer a bit: there aren’t any constitutional amendments that guarantee the citizen a right to own a particular piece of property. The 2nd amendment follows this same logic and was meant to speak only of the citizens’ right to raise, arm and train a militia. 
It seems there is no desire for the NRA types to compromise. And, covertly, a lot of anti-gunners believe in the “all or nothing” credo as well. So, we are stuck in an endless argument. It’s one more sign of the crumbling of our republic.

posted by: citikop on February 3, 2013  8:23am

Folks get a grip on reality. If a person wants to commit a horrific act such as the one in Newtown do you honestly think an assault rifle or an extended magazine is necessary? Take off the blinders….it could have been done with something as simple as a six shooter!  I also strongly agree with the boss….Newtown was tragic but how often do we sit and discuss the gun violence in the inner city….the inner city folks make it a priority but not the rest of you folks in the burbs. (grow up Wildwest)