Heather Whaley


Month: January, 2013

Gun Violence Prevention Committee Hearing, Hartford, CT 1/28/13

Yesterday I testified before the Connecticut State Legislature Subcommittee on Gun Violence Prevention.  When I arrived at 10 am, the line was already very long, it was snowing, and I was really regretting that I hadn’t taken the extra five minutes to find my missing glove.

This is just the back half of the line.

This is just the back half of the line.

There were a lot of moms there – not nearly as many as NRA members, and most had to leave in time to get their kids off the bus.  The rest of us were in it for the long haul.  How long?  I sat down at about 1:00 PM and got up at 3:45 AM.  In the hearing room we were outnumbered by at least 40 to 1, which is a shame as it does not reflect the feeling of the majority in the state or the nation on this matter.  Here’s a photo of the number of people calling in to the Legislative Office in support of new gun regulation on the right, and those opposed on the left, to give you an idea of how mobilized they are.

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Calls placed in opposition to gun regulation on the left. Calls for new gun laws on the right.

What I heard, over and over, from the members of the NRA and CCDL, which is like a local NRA, is that these people are terrified, and I can’t say I blame them because according to their testimony, they have each been the victim of three or four home invasions, and they know for a fact that the government, including the tyrannical subcommittee itself, is coming to take away their guns and force them into concentration camps.

There were a few voices of reason, like the Skeet Shooting instructor worried that his team won’t be able to use the weapons required for their sport, and the gentleman who questioned why it is that when a young black man shoots someone, he’s thrown in jail, but when a young white man commits the same crime he must be “mentally ill.”

In truth, I don’t know how we are going to solve this mess.  I feel responsible that we let it get this far.  Where was I in 2004 when the assault weapons ban expired?  See what happens when we get complacent?  I didn’t take to the streets when Al Gore was fighting for the presidency, and look where that apathy got us – Iraq, The Patriot Act, financial collapse, an expired assault weapons ban, too many shameful legacies of George W. Bush to name in my current state of exhaustion.  My point is that I listened to hours of testimony from people who are genuinely terrified to not have these weapons.  Gun control?  How could we have let it get this far out of control?  I will write more after I’ve had a few hours of sleep.

Here’s my testimony:

What are you going to do about it?


Here is a video I made with some local kids from Connecticut.  Please share everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email.  I appreciate it.  Really.

Alex Jones and the Great Divide

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On Friday I attended a meeting for the March for Change which is advocating for common sense gun laws in Connecticut.  In a world with common sense, it would be harder to buy an assault rifle than to adopt a dog.  In a world with common sense, the main goal of teachers would be to educate, not to defend.  In a world with common sense, the safety of many would take precedent over the paranoid fantasies of the few.  Speaking of those paranoid fantasies….

I’ve been reading a lot about the fight for gun control.  The one argument I keep hearing over and over is that people are afraid the U.S. government is going to burst into their homes and kill everyone.  I have a lot of irrational fears.  I’m convinced that if I’m at the beach and decide to go for a swim, there will be a shark lurking in the exact place I choose to dive under the water.  I swim anyway, and do not carry a harpoon, or giant fishing pole, or whatever it is that you use to hunt sharks.  However, I have absolutely no fear that the government is going to come into my home and attack myself or my family.  I would really like to understand why people have this fear.

I have read a little about Ruby Ridge.  Not a lot, I will give you that.  It’s hard to find information online that does not include the tagline, “We are a community of White Nationalists.”  But even reading the Wikipedia entry, in spite of the fact that I also believe the government was wrong to attack those people, I’m still not afraid that the government is going to shoot at me.  Do the people who have that fear– to the extent they are stock piling weapons and ammunition– all live on compounds?  I’m genuinely asking that question.  For real.  Because why would you think it’s going to happen to YOU?  I live a few miles from Newtown, and if I thought that was going to happen in my town, my kids wouldn’t be in school right now.  I kind of wish they weren’t, but that’s another story.

I watched, open-mouthed, with a combination of delight and horror, this interview.

What struck me as absurd, aside from Alex’s British accent, references to Jaws paranoia (to which I take offense!), the proliferation of suicide/ mass murder pills, was the implication that the U.S. government was responsible for 9/11.  But not George Bush– he had nothing to do with it.  What is so strange to me is that if we attacked ourselves on 9/11, then do Alex Jones and his followers feel we owe an apology to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan?  Since after all, they had nothing to do with 9/11 and their people are simply more victims of the U.S. killing machine, like Vicki Weaver.  Do they offer an apology to Muslim people in general after the horrible way many Americans have treated them these past eleven years?  Or are Alex Jones and his followers the same people who think Obama is an unlawful president because they believe he’s Muslim (disregarding that it would not be illegal in any case)?

Which brings me to education.  According to his Wikipedia page, Alex Jones– and honestly I had never heard of him before about an hour ago, so I only use him as an example– “briefly attended Austin Community College.”  Now, I am NOT saying, in any way shape or form, that a good education cannot be found at community college, and many people simply can not afford college today, and often community colleges are an affordable choice.  But to only “briefly attend” to me says that Alex Jones was not motivated to learn.  He didn’t care about his education.  Which brings me to this:

My ten-year-old and I say this all the time.  “Jeremy Lin went to Harvard?  What a snob!”  But to us it’s a joke.  An obvious joke.  First, Santorum has two graduate degrees, so what’s he talking about?  I’ll tell you.   He’s preaching to the choir.  He’s not trying to lift people up, educate, and inform.  Neither is Alex Jones.  His goal is to keep people afraid and ignorant, and the choir keeps on singing, or shouting, as the case may be.  Are they worried that if people went to school, took an interest in finding the truth about the world, understood and respected cultural differences, they would be harder to manipulate?  Is an uneducated population easier to control?

Is the real thing dividing America today education?  I’m not talking about liberals and conservatives.  I’m talking pistol-packing conspiracy theorists who want to replace science with prayer, and the rest of us.  I realize I sound like the liberal college snob that I am, unless Theater majors don’t count, which is entirely possible.  (Just kidding.  I was also an English major.)  I’m just trying to understand the other side of the argument, and it’s really hard to hear what people actually think and feel over all the screaming.


Time for Action

When I was in fourth grade at Increase Miller, newly transplanted to Katonah, I remember very distinctly sitting in Miss Yohan’s class when there was a loud wail over the P.A.  It wasn’t a fire drill and I had no idea what was going on.  We all had to go in the hall and put our heads between our knees, and someone told me it was in case of an air raid.  I remember thinking it was absurd.  Who was going to fly over Increase Miller and drop a bomb on me?  Nevertheless there were many nights I stared at my ceiling worried about the Soviet Union.  Our kids today have it so much worse.  Their worst fears have been realized.  They are afraid to sleep in their own beds.  We need to do something about it.  And we CAN do something about it.

On Monday, January 14th at 7:30 PM at the Redding Community Center Saul Cornell, author of A Well-Regulated Militia: the Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America will moderate; you can learn more about him by clicking HERE.  We can turn the tragedy of the massacre in Newtown into a catalyst for positive change.  This will be a very informative event.  If you live nearby please join us, or tell your local friends!  It’s time.

Redding Community Center
37 Lonetown Road
Redding, CT 06896