On guns, both sides guilty of pandering

Yes, Republican gubernatorial aspirant Tom Foley went too far the other night when, seeking the support of a gun rights group, he said he would veto any new state gun control legislation. While Connecticut’s gun laws are far more restrictive than those of most states, freezing public policy here makes no sense. No one can anticipate every eventuality with guns, violence, mental illness, and the social disintegration that is dragging Connecticut down.

But Foley’s supposed pandering was no worse than the hysteria heaped on him by the Democratic State Central Committee’s spokesman, James Hallinan, for his doubting the gun restrictions enacted by the General Assembly and Governor Malloy last year in response to the massacre at the school in Newtown. For in fact those restrictions would have done nothing to prevent the massacre, and while they might just marginally impede other madmen bent on mass murder, requiring them to change magazines after 10 shots instead of 20, high-powered rifles will remain fully available. And, far more important, most gun crime in Connecticut will continue to be committed with handguns by fatherless young men from the state’s ever-growing welfare underclass, a problem not yet addressed by any legislation.

Indeed, as Foley was pursuing the votes of the rifle enthusiasts, it was announced in New Haven that, for safety’s sake, the new mayor, Toni Harp, will be driven around and escorted by police officers withdrawn from regular patrol. And just hours after that a 14-year-old boy was shot twice near his high school in New Haven after a basketball game.

Mayor Harp is hardly the only one in New Haven who can use better police protection.

Anyone who pretends that last year’s prohibitions on the sale of certain rifles and magazines will do much about violence in Connecticut is no less politically opportunistic than Foley was in wooing the gun crowd. State government has little idea of how to halt social disintegration and less desire to discuss it.

A state legislative committee seems about to recommend authorizing slot machines and video gambling devices for the state-licensed horse race betting parlors in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Windsor Locks. The argument is that as legal gambling operations increase in nearby states and cut into Connecticut state government’s revenue from the two Indian casinos, gambling should be expanded here too to pump gambling revenue back up.

The Malloy administration accepted that premise last year when, out of the blue and in the last days of the General Assembly’s session, without a public hearing, it got the legislature to authorize the state gambling agency to create a keno game and put keno betting machines in bars. Now it’s slots and video gaming outside casinos, and the leading advocates of more gambling seem to be liberal Democratic legislators from impoverished cities, though liberals used to denounce gambling as a tax on the poor.

In theory liberals still would prefer drawing more of government’s sustenance from “the rich” — as in anyone working hard enough to make any money. But now that so much of their own sustenance comes from government, through direct employment or indirect employment in the name of elevating the poor or alleviating some other social ill, liberals seem to be getting over drawing that sustenance from the people government is supposed to be helping.

Soon every poor person in Connecticut may have not only his own social worker, criminal conviction and probation officer but also his own keno game and his own slot machine. But the poor probably will remain poor, since in Connecticut they long ago became just a means to an end, a pretext for feeding government.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.