Sandy Hook and Pre-emptive Civilian Disarmament
William Norman Grigg
Recently by William Norman Grigg: Prosecution
as Persecution: The Carol Asher Case
advocates insist that the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre
illustrates the dangers of inadequately restrictive firearms laws.
That assumption is impossible to reconcile with the fact that Connecticut’s
state government regards individual firearms ownership not as a
right but as a highly conditional privilege subject to revocation
without notice, on the whim of an unaccountable bureaucrat.
In 1999, the
Connecticut legislature enacted Sec.
29-38c, a measure allowing the police to confiscate firearms
from anybody believed to pose "a risk of imminent personal
injury to himself … or to other individuals." All that is required
is a sworn complaint "by any state’s attorney or assistant
state’s attorney or by any two police officers to any judge of the
Superior Court." A warrant will then be issued allowing police
to confiscate the firearms and hold them for up to a year.
The gun confiscation
measure was enacted in October 1999, about a year and a half after
the last pre-Sandy Hook mass shooting to occur in the Nutmeg State.
The assailant, Matthew Beck, was an ex-employee of the Internal
Revenue Service who at the time was employed as an accountant at
the Connecticut Lottery Corporation.
A few months
before the March, 1998 massacre, Beck had been granted a medical
leave for stress-related symptoms. His application for a promotion
had been denied. Several of his co-workers and relatives had become
concerned about his emotional state. Some of his close friends believed
that Beck suffered from suicidal depression. But nobody had expected
that he would arrive at work one morning, take out a Glock, and
start gunning down his supervisors.
As is always
the case in episodes of this kind, the shooter ended the rampage
on his own terms, killing himself before the police arrived. The
on-scene security guard was similarly useless: The only aid he provided
was to suggest to the victims that they take refuge in a wooded
after the shooting, State Representative Michael Lawlor introduced
the gun confiscation measure.
Lieutenant Robert Kiehm explained to the Associated Press that the
purpose of the measure is to give police officers the power "to
take some proactive steps instead of waiting for something to happen."
of this law is not so much that police will seize your guns," Lawlor
insisted when it took effect in October 1999. "It gives police a
system to investigate a person who poses a threat. If the police
never confiscate a person's guns, they can at least look into the
person's behavior and perhaps prevent a tragedy by intervening."
first decade following its enactment, Connecticut’s
gun seizure law resulted in the confiscation of at least 2,000 firearms
from people who were never charged with crimes. Nearly all of
the seizures followed reports from concerned relatives – generally
spouses – of the victims. Attorney Rachel Baird, who has represented
a dozen Connecticut residents whose firearms have been confiscated,
insists that none of them posed any credible threat to anybody,
is now the state’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and
Planning, invokes a variation on Dick Cheney’s "One
Percent Doctrine" ("Even if there’s just a 1 percent
chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it’s a certainty")
to justify the gun confiscation program. "Maybe it would have
been just a suicide or a single murder of a spouse, but potentially
one of these guys along the road could have been a mass shooting,"
he told NPR.
set out in the Connecticut confiscation law – namely, that guns
can be seized from anyone who presents "a risk of imminent
personal injury to others" – would justify the pre-emptive
disarmament of the police force. After all, the police constitute
a body of armed individuals who are trained to employ violence and
are rarely held accountable for injuring or killing others without
a morally sound reason to do so.
defense of the measure – that it is justified by the prevention
of "just a suicide or a single murder" – were applied
seriously, it would buttress the case for disarming the police in
Connecticut. Between April and June of 2011, there
were four police suicides in Connecticut, a development that
prompted authorities to convene a
special statewide conference on suicide prevention. That argument
is enhanced even further by the case of Hartford Police Officer
Robert Lawlor (no relation, as far as I can determine).
In May 2005,
Officer Lawlor was part of a federal task force called the Violent
Crime Impact Team (VCIT). He and his partner, ATF Agent Daniel Prather,
were deployed on the streets of Hartford looking for firearms to
On the evening
of May 7, Lawlor and Prather – who were decked out in street attire
– were harassing somebody on a street corner when the officer spotted
a black Maxima with a young black male sitting behind the wheel.
up to the car, flashed his badge, and ordered the driver, a young
man named Brandon Henry, to stop the car and keep his hands in plain
sight. He had neither probable cause nor "reasonable suspicion"
to justify the contact. A few seconds later, five shots erupted
and Henry, in a panic, pulled away in the car. While the officers
called for backup, Henry collided into another vehicle before staggering
from his car and running away, depositing a bloody trail in his
had been shot in the chest, Henry survived. His passenger, 18-year-old
Jashon Bryant, did not. Lawlor, who had approached the vehicle from
the passenger side, had shot Bryant in the head. A thorough search
of the vehicle turned up a tiny amount of cocaine. No firearm was
under oath later, Prather
admitted that he never saw a gun in the car – and never heard Lawlor
mention one at the time of the shooting. An official
investigation by the State Division of Criminal Justice concluded
that "the use of deadly physical force was not appropriate." In
other words, Lawlor had committed criminal homicide.
people whose guns were stolen by Connecticut police, Lawlor’s background
demonstrated that he was clearly a danger to the safety of others.
was investigated for a 1990 on-duty shooting in which a 15-year-old
boy was needlessly wounded. He was sued on multiple occasions by
professional colleagues, who accused him of malicious harassment
and reckless driving that resulted in injuries to several other
Lawlor is the
kind of fellow who speaks of himself in the third person when explaining
to a reporter that he’s willing to bend the rules to get things
done – and that his problems reflect the fact that his professional
colleagues just aren’t worthy of him.
a boss, is it easier to bring Bobby Lawlor down or is it easier
to take 40 other officers and bring them up to my level?" Lawlor
said to the Hartford Courant following the 2005 shooting. "I've
had problems with supervisors because ... I fight for the little
guy and I know policy and procedure better than the supervisors."
and procedure," from Lawlor’s perspective, apparently justified
subornation of perjury in order to protect himself after he needlessly
shot and killed Jashon Bryant.
About a week
after the shooting, a minor-league drug dealer named Jaime Diaz
called the Hartford Police to report that he had the gun Lawlor
had supposedly seen in Henry's car. Diaz, who insisted that he didn’t
know Lawlor, provided a detailed statement to police describing
how he came into possession of the weapon. Two weeks later, Diaz
contacted the Police again to recant his statement, admitting that
he was actually a confidential informant who had worked with Lawlor
as part of a narcotics task force.
Ten years earlier,
Lawlor – once again, acting on "policy and procedure,"
as he understood the concept – refused to arrest Diaz on a narcotics
charge. Now that he was in serious trouble after gunning down an
unarmed 18-year-old kid, Lawlor called in the favor.
In July 2006,
after the State Division of Criminal Justice ruled that Lawlor’s
shooting of Jashon Bryant was not legally justified, the officer
was confronted by several of the victim’s relatives outside the
Hartford Superior Court.
returned a week later for a pre-trial hearing, "The entrance to
the [courthouse] was lined with blue," reported
the local NBC affiliate, WTNH. "State and local police in uniform
were there to guard Officer Lawlor from friends and family of the
man he's accused of killing...."
was no serious dispute about the facts of the case, Lawlor was acquitted
in 2009. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he displayed not a scintilla
of regret over the fact that he had needlessly killed an unarmed
and terrified 18-year-old boy.
were made," Lawlor defiantly sneered at Bryant’s father and
the bereaved relatives confronted the killer outside the courthouse.
"Being sorry, to me in my personal belief, would be admitting
some sort of wrongdoing. I did nothing wrong."
did find it appropriate to express sympathy toward someone he considered
a worthy victim. After the trial, Lawlor – who by that time had
retired with a full pension – whined that the verdict brought to
an end "the longest four and a half years of my life."
promptly filed a lawsuit against the prosecutor who had filed
criminal charges against him.
pre-emptive disarmament law had really been intended to mitigate
public danger, Robert Lawlor would have been required to surrender
his firearms, rather than using them to confiscate guns from other
people. But if sociopaths in uniform are required to give up their
guns, how would they be able to disarm the rest of us?
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program.
© 2013 William Norman Grigg
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