'Grave misgivings' led to Maynard's 'no' vote

David Collins' April 14 column, "Why Doesn't Andrew Maynard Just become a Republican," questions not only my motives for a vote on the "gun bill" but my commitment to the Democratic Party and its principles. Criticism for this vote is something I can understand and respect. However, the author's questioning of my lifetime commitment to the principles of my party is offensive to me and his suggestion that I should conform to his version of Democratic political orthodoxy or change party affiliation is both offensive and frankly arrogant.

Most disappointingly, he displays a willingness to twist facts to fit his conceived narrative. In the most egregious instance the author takes paraphrased comments from a Yale Daily News article and puts them in quotations, giving the impression to many that it was a direct quote from me. Further, he chose to include this misconstrued remark as evidence that I was using NRA-inspired rhetoric while ignoring a quote in the very same article explaining why, as a Democrat, I found the bill so troubling. Here are my actual words as they appeared in print.

"Democrats typically pride themselves at getting at the underlying solutions to major public policy issues," Maynard said. "We don't generally go to black-and-white solutions like more prisons, tougher sentencing, more law enforcement. We generally say, look, urban violence is generated by a whole set of socioeconomic issues. In this case, we did the typical, black-and-white, sort of conservative response, which is 'Guns are bad, there should be fewer of them, and we're gonna make sure it happens.'"

I voted no on this bill because I do not believe it will effectively address the issues that led yet another troubled young man to commit an unimaginable horror. And while some in my party were prepared to accept on faith the contents of a 138-page bill delivered to us just two hours before the Senate debate, I found myself having grave misgivings about supporting a bill that was more gesture than solution.

The bill we passed purports to make our children safer by making it illegal to purchase any of a handful of weapons of a certain description and by limiting magazines to 10 rounds each. All the thousands of AR-15s and large capacity magazines ever sold remain in circulation and owners simply have to report them to a new state run registry, but can store their ammunition at home or at their gun club.

Some will say, "Well it's a start." Frankly I fear it is more like the end. Our legislature tends to make these grand gestures then quickly turns its attention to other matters. Yes the details of school safety committees, gun registries and the central bureaucracy to whom they report will have to be set up, but the opportunity for thoughtful, deliberative and meaningful responses to the tragedy at Newtown has passed. We achieved a modest ban and a new gun registry, but the complex underlying problems of our society - anxiety ridden and overly medicated youth, addiction to violent games, a culture saturated in violence and alienation, families in economic despair, and a lack of mental health care and access - still confront us.

As expressed in my floor remarks, I do hope that the mental health study, which I regard as the most promising part of the bill, will offer us the best opportunity to attend to the 30-year legacy of a failed policy toward our citizens struggling with mental health issues and the violence that can result.

I am disappointed that Mr. Collins chose to frame this entire issue in a political light. I believe we have to move away from the crippling effects of political orthodoxy that not only divides our government but our relationships with one another. My guiding principle is to promote maximum benefit while preserving maximum freedom. Striking that balance is the trick.

Andrew Maynard is the state senator for the 18th District. He lives in Stonington.

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