Somers: Critics distort bump-stock vote

As a mother of three and a lawmaker with the honor of representing the 18th District, the safety of our schools and communities is my top priority.

I’ve fought to improve the tools and resources available to school districts to keep our children safe. I led the fight to hold state agencies accountable for failing to do so. And I sought innovative solutions and achieved bipartisan results to tackle the crisis of mental health in our communities.

And despite the completely false and inflammatory attacks from a political opponent desperate to score cheap points — the simple fact of the matter is I supported a ban on bump stocks and voted that way.

As a legislator, I believe I have an obligation to the hardworking families and voters who elected me to support legislation that reflects sound policy that is enforceable, effective and constitutional.

That is why, when the Senate was considering a bill to ban bump stocks earlier this year, I supported a version of the legislation that fit all three critical elements.

The version of the bill I supported banned the sale and manufacturing of bump stocks and, following precedent set by previous firearm restrictions in Connecticut, allowed law-abiding gun owners who had a bump stock in their possession before the ban to safely register the device with law enforcement.

It was sound, thoughtful and sensible policy that would have protected the public while treating all Connecticut residents fairly.

Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in Hartford weren’t interested in sound policy. They advanced a twisted version of the bill that threatened to make law-abiding Connecticut residents Class D felons for possessing something they had purchased legally.

The bill, without the amendment I supported, also empowered the government to seize legally purchased property — a threat to the ability of the state to enforce or defend the bill and a clear violation of constitutional rights.

Democratic leaders in Hartford of course knew all of this — but wanted lawmakers to oppose it — and thus get a way to attack them out of context come election season.

It’s the kind of cynical, petty political gamesmanship used by insiders in Hartford to protect their system of one-party rule despite their record of hiking taxes, allowing deficits and debt to spiral out-of-control, and pushing Connecticut families and businesses to the brink.

Instead of engaging in their brand of politics-as-usual, I’ve stayed focused on delivering results and challenging the status quo in Hartford.

It is why I have relentlessly fought to improve the way we identify and treat mental health. As co-chair of the Public Health Committee, I worked across the aisle to successfully pass legislation to expand telemedicine solutions for treating mental health.

And I’ve led the fight to hold our state agencies accountable and implement reforms to ensure failures in Hartford don’t put Connecticut residents at risk.

I exposed a pattern of abuse at Whiting Forensic, a state-run mental health facility, leading to the arrest of more than 10 workers and the suspension of dozens more.

In the end my legislation transformed this facility and was referred to by a representative as the “most important legislation the assembly could pass last year.”

I’ll continue to hold the Malloy administration accountable for the failures in process and in oversight that made the pervasive abuse possible — and fight for reform.

And I believe there is so much more we can do with innovative solutions and determination.

I support a plan to take a portion of funds currently directed toward the public financing of political campaigns and direct it into enhancing safety at our schools by funding school resource officers. I’ve also said it is vital that we do what it takes as a state to put a mental health worker in every school-based health clinic.

Eastern Connecticut families deserve more than my opponent’s petty political gamesmanship and misleading negative campaigns.

We may not agree 100 percent of the time. In fact, I certainly don’t agree with my party 100 percent of the time, but I will always be honest with voters about the tough issues and decisions facing our state.

If given the honor of continuing to represent the 18th district, I will fight every day to deliver results, to challenge the status quo in Hartford and to support common sense policies to build a safer, more prosperous Connecticut.

Heather Somers is a state senator representing Connecticut’s 18th district, including the towns of Groton, Stonington, North Stonington, Preston, Voluntown, Griswold, Sterling and Plainfield.

 

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