Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God Bless You, Caroline Phoebe Previdi

I just left the Funeral Mass for Caroline Phoebe Previdi, age 6. Caroline was a first grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School and died tragically with twenty-six other victims at the hands of a madman. Last Friday was a day that broke our hearts in America.

I never met Caroline but her great-grandparents, Eugene and Phoebe Previdi, were special people in my life. Papa Gene was my first boss at age fourteen when he handed me a broom and told me to sweep a huge parking lot on a very hot summer day. I’ll never forget those blisters. I didn’t know then how Papa Gene’s lessons would impact my work ethic for many years to come. Aunt Phoebe was a gentle saint who always told me Papa Gene didn’t really mean the harsh things he said to get me to focus on my job.

Caroline Phoebe Previdi, her family, classmates and the Newtown community paid a huge price for a madman’s terror. I hope and pray this heavy price produces changes in America.

We must begin the debate – a civil discourse – about violence in America. Why do we accept violence in our culture with pre-teens becoming proficient in extremely violent video games and Hollywood releasing movies of carnage on Christmas Day. Why is New Haven considered the fourth most dangerous city in America?

I am a firm defender of the Second Amendment and believe many of the comments in the past several days about changing gun laws have been inaccurate and sometimes misleading. Yes, I agree we should look carefully at our laws – both state and federal – in the upcoming legislative sessions in Hartford and Washington. A civil discourse will be far more productive in finding solutions.

Earlier this year I began studying Connecticut’s assault weapons ban to better understand how our state has some of the strongest gun control regulations in the country.  The state legislature enacted the ban in 1993. Congress passed a 10-year federal ban in 1994. Efforts to renew the federal ban have been proposed a number of times unsuccessfully.

I discovered a loophole in Connecticut’s assault weapons ban during my research and plan to submit a bill that seeks to correct the deficiency. Weapons manufactured prior to the ban may be dismantled to recycle the part containing the gun’s serial number and rebuilt with modern parts that would otherwise fall under the existing assault weapons ban.

Let me be perfectly clear about the assault weapons ban – it will not stop the classroom carnage visited upon Sandy Hook. The madman’s weapon is not classified as an assault weapon. Should we study that classification during our upcoming civil discourse? Yes. Should we review the size of ammo magazines and consider the former federal limitations be enacted in Connecticut? Yes. Should we honor the Second Amendment during our deliberations? Absolutely!

The serious problem with the gun control debate in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy is the absence of debating mental health in America. We must not seriously consider gun control without acknowledging the inadequacies of mental health policy in our country.

We have witnessed an alarming pattern with shooting rampages of overwhelming evidence of insufficient or un-prioritized mental health treatment for deeply troubled young men turned murderers. How can our country keep turning a blind eye to this healthcare tragedy? A civil discourse on this topic will tell us how to fix the challenges of access to mental health services and begin to address the stigma within our society that forces patients and their families to hide their affliction.

A third area for debate is school security. Surely much has improved in this area as evidenced by lockdown procedures that clearly saved lives in Sandy Hook. Can we improve? Yes and we may be able to make substantial improvements without breaking the bank. Once again a civil discourse will be far more productive in finding solutions.

In honor of Caroline Phoebe Previdi I am stepping out in search for workable changes to keep our schools safe. Papa Gene and Aunt Phoebe produced a very special family and I’m sure Caroline Phoebe Previdi’s parents and grandparents will be holding us all accountable in the legislature to make a difference with a bi-partisan approach to help stop a repeat of this terrible tragedy.

God Bless you, Caroline Phoebe Previdi.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Broken Hearts in America

Our hearts are broken in Connecticut and across America. No words can explain the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Now is the time for prayer – prayers for the victims and their families and prayers for the Newtown community that they may begin the steps of healing.
Many people have asked me, “What can I do to help?” My first first answer is prayer. Those who wish to directly support the families may contribute here:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470