In December 2012, after Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, the NRA said: Don't blame guns; blame the mental health system. More than two years later, a Connecticut advisory panel dominated by psychiatrists is prepared to issue a rejoinder: Don't blame the mental health system; blame guns.
Last Friday, the Associated Press reports, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, decided to recommend a ban on "the sale and possession of any gun that can fire more than 10 rounds without reloading." You may recall that Connecticut's legislature already responded to the Sandy Hook massacre by passing a raft of new gun restrictions, including a 10-round limit on magazines and an expanded definition of "assault weapons," back in April 2013. The new definition of prohibited guns covers any rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has any of five "military-style" features. The advisory commission, which is expected to issue its final report next month, apparently wants to expand the category of banned weapons to include any rifle or handgun that accepts a detachable magazine, period. And unlike the legislature, which allowed continued possession of prohibited guns and magazines as long as they were registered, the commission wants to confiscate all weapons capable of firing more than 10 rounds without reloading.
That's a lot of guns. I gather people would still be allowed to have revolvers, shotguns, certain rare fixed-magazine guns, and single-round weapons such as bolt-action rifles and derringer pistols. But I think that's pretty much it. Could such a sweeping ban be reconciled with the Second Amendment? The commission's members do not care. "Whether or not this law would stand the test of constitutionality is not for this commission to decide," one member, former Hartford Police Chief Bernard Sullivan, told A.P. "The commission has expressed very strongly that this is a statement that is needed regarding the lethality of weapons."
Sullivan is not kidding when he says the commission does not care about the Constitution:
The commission also decided not to include…a disclaimer that nothing in the report "should be construed as a prohibition against the manufacture of any device legal for sale or possession in other jurisdictions."
Dr. David J. Schonfeld, a commission member and director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, said it made no sense to restrict the commission's recommendations to only guns sold and possessed in Connecticut.
After all, it is not for this commission to decide whether Connecticut's laws are binding throughout the country.
Explaining the decision to focus on this blatantly unconstitutional, pie-in-the-sky gun confiscation scheme, psychiatrist Harold Schwartz told Reuters:
Accessibility to this kind of weaponry is the single most important factor in mass shootings. While we've spent two years looking at the mental health aspects relating to this horrible event, mental health issues pale in relationship to these kinds of weapons in mass shootings.
After two years of study, in other words, the commission has concluded that mass shootings always involve guns.
I will give Schwartz et al. this much credit: Instead of getting bogged down in mainly cosmetic features such as flash suppressors and flare launchers, they are emphasizing a characteristic with undeniable functional significance, as demonstrated by the enormous popularity of guns with detachable magazines. But the fact that so many Americans favor such guns also makes eliminating them practically and constitutionally impossible.
The commission's chairman, Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, is undaunted by such details. "We're not writing proposed legislation," Jackson told Reuters. "We're writing end results." This is the sort of magical thinking that makes it hard to take gun controllers seriously.