July 17, 2018

Letter: Senator Linares, Gun Control, and the NRA: More Transparency Needed

To the Editor:

The Valley News Now (April 26) quotes Senator Linares at length in remarks before a recent seniors’ luncheon of the Estuary Council explaining why he voted against the Newtown gun control law.  In my opinion, Mr. Linares’s remarks are unconvincing.  They set a standard of glib analysis that hopefully will not characterize his future votes in office. Equally important, Mr. Linares’s remarks leave me wondering whether he has told us the whole story of his “ no” vote. The News reports that he did not volunteer his explanation, but only responded to questions after having  “consented” to a discussion.  Mr. Linares’s web site does not mention his vote.  Why is that, on an issue of such importance to his constituents?

Mr. Linares is quoted by the News as saying he “did not have a chance to read the bill.”  This is hard to credit.  The new law is largely the work of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety established last January – of which Mr. Linares was a member from the beginning.  The Task Force took extensive testimony, and legislative proposals began to emerge from it as early as the beginning of March.  The members of the Task Force then reportedly met behind closed doors to negotiate the legislation for two months before emerging in early April with a bipartisan proposal. Is it possible that Senator Linares was still clueless after participating in such a process?

The News quotes Mr. Linares as saying that the legislation “could create a black market” in guns. So what?  A black market in heroin “could be” the result of existing laws prohibiting that substance.  Mr. Linares does not, I assume, favor legalizing heroin. Taxes on cigarettes and regulatory restrictions on the production of pharmaceutical products arguably have fostered black markets in those products.  Does Mr. Linares support eliminating cigarette taxes or allowing the production of prescription drugs in substandard facilities? The answer to black markets is to enforce laws against them – not cave in.

Mr. Linares’s thought process in explaining his  “no” vote is so obscure he sometimes seems to speak in riddles.  He is quoted as saying, for example, that his concern was for police officers.  He reasons that taking guns away from common citizens could have the effect of being “dangerous to law enforcement officers.”  What does he mean by this?  How can it be good for the police, let alone the rest of us, to allow every Tom, Dick, and Harry, irrespective of mental instability or terrorist proclivities, to have access to military style weapons?  Mr. Linares does not explain.

Mr. Linares claims that “most guns are used for self defense”. This seems doubtful. I would guess that “most guns” are used for hunting or target practice.  Still, if Mr. Linares is correct that ”most guns are used for self defense,” perhaps it is because folks are returning fire — in which case it might also be true that “most guns are used in violent crime.”  In any event, Mr. Linares’s observation is irrelevant because the legislation does not ban “most guns” in Connecticut, but only a small subset of them, specifically some 100 types of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.

Few would contest Mr. Linares assertion that citizens should have the “right to defend themselves.”  However, that is not the issue presented by the Newtown legislation, which leaves intact an individual’s access to a huge variety of guns.  The issue presented by Newtown is whether we as citizens also have a right to gather in public places without the nagging fear of being attacked by an unstable, violent few bearing arms of such great destructive force that they properly belong in the military for our collective defense.

A few weeks after he voted “no” on the Newtown legislation, Mr. Linares posted a piece on his web site entitled “what I’ve heard in my first 100 days as State Senator.” There is no mention of Newtown.  Instead, Mr. Linares speaks forcefully against fiscal irresponsibility and wasteful government spending.  Is it not wasteful to spend scarce taxpayer dollars on the compensation of elected officials who do not have the  time to read important legislation and yet proceed on the basis of superficial analysis to vote against it?

In the meantime, well over a month after the enactment of the Newtown legislation, Mr. Linares still has not posted on his official website an explanation of his reasons for voting no.  I respectfully call upon him to do so now.  This is important to the transparency of his position.  All of Mr. Linares’s constituents have the right to know his reasoning, not only those who happened to attend the seniors’ luncheon at the Estuary Council.

In the context of such disclosure, it would be helpful if Mr. Linares would also clarify his dealings with the National Rifle Association.  According to the non-partisan voter education organization “Project Vote Smart”( www.votesmart.org), Mr. Linares last year was accorded a 92% approval rating by the political action committee of the National Rifle Association.  This entity, known as the “NRA Political Victory Fund” (NRA PVF), is the campaign finance arm of the NRA.  The 92% approval rating given Mr. Linares apparently was the highest accorded any member of the Connecticut General Assembly (shared with only a distinct minority of his colleagues). The NRA PVF website in turn states that it “ranks political candidates – irrespective of party affiliation – based on voting records, public statements and their responses to an NRA-PVF questionnaire.”

Since Mr. Linares had no voting record on gun control at the time of his 92% ranking in 2012, and his public statements on this issue have in my experience proven elusive, it would be reasonable to assume that Mr. Linares’s stellar NRA ranking was the result of his answers to their questionnaire.  Those answers in turn hold the key to understanding what standard Mr. Linares applied when he told the seniors’ luncheon that the Newtown legislation “ went too far and was too extreme.”

The issue now is whether Mr. Linares will be as forthcoming to his constituents as he apparently has been to the NRA.  Towards this end, I call upon Mr. Linares to publish on his web site his responses to the NRA questionnaire together with any other information he has provided to the NRA that would shed light on his gun control views.  This would help his constituents understand whether it was the Newtown legislation, or Mr. Linares’s own position, which “went too far and was too extreme.”

Sincerely,

David Harfst
Essex

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