There’s someone missing from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a 16-member panel he named Tuesday with the charge of coming up with recommendations on school safety, mental health and violence prevention.
Not a single person is on the panel from the firearms industry, which has 2,900 people directly involved in making and selling firearms, according to a 2012 study.
This is a clear oversight that Malloy can easily address. It sends the wrong message that the industry is not part of the solution, and it also misses out on the considerable expertise that the industry has — all the more important, since Malloy is pointedly asking the commission to devise tighter gun laws.
For example, the AR-15 rifle, made by more than one company in Connecticut, has a long history here and is widely misunderstood. Clearly there are lawmakers who want to see it banned outright, and that’s a worthy debate — if and only if everyone learns what, exactly, an AR-15 is, and what it is not.
“We would participate if we were asked,” said one industry official, who asked not to be named because his employer has not commented publicly about its position.
The panel includes one elected official, four psychiatric professionals, two educators, four from related service professions (including a recent public-officeholder), three public safety professionals, a criminal justice expert and a security industry executive.
There’s room for someone from one of the Colt companies, or Sturm, Ruger, or Stag Arms, or Hoffman’s Gun Center or the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry group, based in Newtown, that has orchestrated the handout of 35 million gun locks.
Leaving the industry off the panel was not intended as a message said Andrew Doba, Malloy spokesman.
“They will have a chance to participate in meetings and in forums,” Doba said
The panel membership, Doba said, is a representative sample of the people able to advance the goals outlined by the Governor when he announced the creation of the commission: “crafting gun policies that are as tight as they are reasonable; that our mental health system can reach all that need its help; and that our law enforcement has all the tools it needs to protect public safety, particularly in our schools.”
No, it’s not a cross-section. I get it; the idea is to improve school safety and to improve the mental health system, but regulate, not improve the gun industry. Still, there should be a full and complete discussion including solutions that are uncomfortable for any and all groups.
The gun industry will oppose many of the proposed reforms. It will lobby hard, and it may end up on what some of us consider the wrong side of this issue. But excluding it from the table at the outset would be unwise policy even if this were not the state where the industry was born, and even if this were not the industry whose history did nothing short of defining Connecticut’s industrial heritage.