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Letter to a Local State Representative

One of our state representatives in the area, Steve Santarsiero, has proposed the state completely outlaw “military-style” weapons. My response can be found in the comments below, but I thought I’d reproduce it here:

I live just outside your district, but I know many gun owners who are constituents. Like you, we were shocked and horrified by what happened last Friday, and many of us are still trying to come to terms with the magnitude of evil we saw on display. We are friends, neighbors, and parents, and our hearts go out to the people in Connecticut, as we cannot imagine what they must be going through. 

But the politicization of this act, and the scapegoating of lawful gun owners only makes this pain more difficult for us. Instead of grieving along with the nation, we’re told we should feel shame. We’re told we should surrender our rights. I do not understand how any member of the Pennsylvania Legislature proposes to ban millions of commonly-owned rifles, when, according to Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns, Pennsylvania has reported ZERO mental health records to the federal background check system. As you may know, true military weapons, those that are capable of fully automatic fire, have been heavily restricted for civilian use for sometime. The problem isn’t the guns, it’s our mental health system. The de-institutionalization of dangerously mentally ill persons has not only failed society, but failed the mentally ill, many of whom often become homeless, or end up in the prison system. Gun owners are willing to talk about solutions, but we want to see solutions that have a prayer of working. Connecticut is one of the small handful of states that already bans the kind of guns you propose outlawing. It is ranked number five in the nation by the Brady Campaign for having strict gun laws. Those laws failed to protect those children. Perhaps getting the mentally ill the help they need would actually help to enhance public safety.

Feel free to use this as a template in your dealings with lawmakers. I think it’s important to humanize ourselves first, and then propose solutions. We’re not going to be able to depend on the Second Amendment and constitutional arguments to win this one. When the chips are down, no one except us really cares about Constitutional rights, and those arguments never win.

We have to win by counter proposals that deflect attention away from guns, and into areas, that, quite frankly, may actually have a prayer of making a difference. Something will be done, and we’re going to have to work very hard to ensure that the “something” is not more feel-good laws that have no prayer of actually working, and only will lead to a new round of restrictions at the next horrific shooting.

17 Responses to “Letter to a Local State Representative”

  1. Patrick H says:

    Good letter. I’m stealing it.

    BTW. You are on FIRE today. I like it.

    • Sebastian says:

      Thanks. It comes at the expense of having to do my day job late into the night. Basically for the next week, if I’m not working I’m blogging. We’re going to have a hell of a fight on our hands.

      • Bryan S. says:

        And thank you for taking up that position. I’ll be working my day job even in the evenings this week, so I will often be passing out info from yourself and a few other bloggers.

        Your blog today has been a goldmine.

  2. Ken Soderstrom says:

    The only thing that will really “work” is elimination of “Gun-Free Zones”. This is the “solution” that should be pushed.

    • Sebastian says:

      I think you need to get the debate off guns specifically, and focus more on the mindset issue. I agree that issue needs to be on the table, but you have to be very careful about how you frame it and approach it. Like this article I linked to early this morning. You really have to change the mindset, and that’s not necessarily about guns specifically.

      • Harold says:

        Indeed. See the blather at the end of this (quoted below); the police in the county seat have a big (864 attendees this year) annual Christmas party for kids and they said exactly the sorts of things you’d expect here. One focus was on exposure to violence, and the Assistant Chief Randee Kaiser noted that ““In the ’50s and ’60s, teenagers could go to a hardware store and buy dynamite, blasting caps, pistols. We didn’t have these problems then. It’s pretty much the violent culture.” (And at least in the early ’50s keep their hunting guns in their high school lockers.)

        So how does this [impolite sexist term deleted] end her piece?

        Officers, I agree with everything you say. In my opinion, a person’s mental state is the primary factor in mass murders, followed closely by our violence and drug culture, and finally, easy access to weapons. That’s why we need stringent enforcement of who may own a gun and what kind.

        I still believe the fewer guns in this world, the better. An unbalanced, emotionally distraught person can attack you with a knife, a rock or a hammer. But he can attack only one person at a time, and you possibly could survive. With a gun, there’s rarely ever a second chance at life.

        Gun control may not be the best answer, but it can be a mitigating factor.

        The mind boggles … but that’s the attitude of a victim. And it’s attitudes we’ve got to change, or make so vile that few who hold them dare voice them.

        Don’t remember if she’s a local, but she’s been working in local newspapers for at least a decade and a half.

  3. Arnie says:

    Beautiful letter, Sebastian! But something you said afterward really grieved me – that we’re not going to win this argument on Consritutional grounds. Have we really fallen so far? Has it really come to this? Our dear Founders – how they must weep! And I with them.

    • Sebastian says:

      Yes, I think we have really fallen that far. I don’t think people give a rat’s behind about rights they don’t exercise, and most people aren’t gun owners. That’s not to say I think we should eschew it entirely, but if you look at polling numbers on most rights issues, people are all over the place. Even the First Amendment is not remarkably supported when you talk specifics, rather than just speaking in platitudes. I mean, you can see I mentioned rights, as a platitude, where people agree with it, but I didn’t specifically focus on it in the letter.

    • Sebastian says:

      And I suppose I shouldn’t say fallen. I don’t think we ever cared about rights in this country. First Amendment rights weren’t seriously protected until fairly recently. I’m not sure 4th Amendment rights were ever well protected, and possibly are better protected today than in the past. If you were black, you had no rights in this country, except theoretically, until very recently. So I’m not sure we’re fallen, so much as people like the idea of rights as platitudes. When you start informing them that rights are costly, they don’t have the philosophical construct to support them even in the face of that.

  4. Matt Rogers says:

    Michigan Senators Stabenow and Levin, both democrats, have a letter waiting in their inbox. Rep. Huizenga also has one…

    Hopefully, enough will see the sense in flooding their elected officials with well thought out and concise letters.

    –Matt Rogers

  5. asdf says:

    You missed a golden opportunity to recommend “My Brother Ron” in your letter. I just happened to start reading it the same day this shooting happened.

  6. Shawn says:

    It’s a good template but how would be the best way to rework the opening sentence if submitting it as a letter since we’re not in PA? And for the MAIG part as my state since when it comes to submissions of mental health records my state while poor isn’t at 0. More like 10,000? Should I remove it totally and put in something else or rework it to make it appear as not enough?

    • Sebastian says:

      It probably depends on your specifics. The main themes to his is that: we’re human beings too. We want to find solutions as well. But the solution is not gun control. That’s the basic gist.

  7. Sebastian:
    We have, in the past, had considerable disagreement on how to defend the Second Amendment, but I must tell you that you are, today, spot on. With your kind permission, I’m going to use your commentary in a larger blog that I should have ready for public consumption late this week, or early next. I’m waiting for the innocents to be buried, but not waiting long, as bastard politicos have turned to the “never waste a crisis” mantra so prevalent in D.C. today.

    God Bless, and keep your current train of thought chugging along.
    John F. DeLallo, Jr., MSgt, USAFR (ret.)

  8. StevieY43 says:

    Great start Sebastian, thank you. I’m using this as a template to tailor letters to my PA and federal reps.

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