06/27/13 1:59pm
06/27/2013 1:59 PM

I write my columns while out walking, mentally, that is. This particular morning I was coming up with zilch. My mom was always good for a column or two. Although she was chronologically 92 years old, her attitude was that of someone half her age. And with Mom, there was always a story to tell. Nothing to tell of late; she died over a year ago.

Of course, there was my “sweet Frank.” He was my straight man and we often played off each other. But alas, he died in April.

Ah, me. I suppose I’m in a funk.

My doctor said that I am doing fine, grieving appropriately and moving forward. Well, maybe so. But forward to where? Does this grief thing have a destination? I feel better for a few days, then grief sneaks up from behind and — gotcha! — I’m in funksville again.

They say that when facing any loss we must get on with our lives. Really? This cliché makes me laugh, even now. If any well-meaning folk would venture to give me this advice, I would blurt, “What the h— do you think I’m doing?”

And the death business is really a business. I don’t know how many times I’ve sent a death certificate to the same agency. I mean, really, dead is dead is dead! I have a missing husband to prove it.

I had a spell last month when my normal weirdness morphed into a full-blown case of eccentricity. Here’s what I did in the span of a few days:

I’m meticulous about my finances (or lack thereof ). When I received an overdraft notice from my bank, Ifreaked out. I remembered transferring funds to cover my bills, except that I didn’t know where the funds went or, worse yet, to whom!

Upon discovering an empty shampoo bottle, I began the blame game (dreadful of me, I know). Turns out that I left the bottle uncapped and the shampoo spilled into the plastic container that holds my hair products. While using a few choice words, I flung the container into the bathtub and began rinsing it. Lordy, lordy! That bathtub produced more bubbles than the Lawrence Welk show.

During a torrential rainstorm, I drove to a friend’s house. Trying to alight from my car, I opened the umbrella inside the car. The umbrella got stuck in an open position and me along with it. Oy!

Lest you think I’m a complainer, many graces have come my way. At first blush, however, they presented in odd packaging. For instance:

I am continually amazed and humbled by the support of my family, extended church family and friends. They sustain me.

And to my readers: Although I don’t know most of you personally, I deeply appreciate your expressions of sympathy and concern. Your cards and notes arrived in my mailbox just when I needed them the most.

Upon receiving the aforementioned overdraft letter, I made a beeline to my bank. The manager was sympathetic, fixed the error, offered cookies and dispensed some sage advice.

My across-the-street neighbors materialize regularly with food, tend to my trash cans and have been there for me in ways that give new meaning to the word “neighbors.” Truthfully, they are more like family.

Quite by chance, I landed a part-time job at a charming assisted-living facility in Cutchogue. I was hired to interact with the residents and engage them in stimulating activities. And bonus! I enjoy it. One can say I was at the right place at the right time. But I know better.

Last week, I heard someone laugh; that someone was me.

While contemplating this column I came across the following passage: “Sometimes you have to just stop worrying, wondering and doubting. Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but just how it’s meant to be.”

And what do you know? This column just got written.

Hmm. Grace, definitely!

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

06/07/13 8:00am
06/07/2013 8:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | John McManmon outside his family’s home in Aquebogue.

The residency requirement to run for New York State Assembly is defined very briefly on the NYS Board of Elections website. In fact, the definition is only one sentence long.

It says: “You must be a resident of the state for five years and a resident of the district for 12 months immediately preceding the election.”

That one sentence is why I believe the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Assembly District special election should not be permitted to run for that office.

John McManmon does not dispute that he spends most nights in an apartment on Dean Street in Brooklyn, more than 90 minutes away from the district he wants to represent.

However, the 28-year-old attorney believes he is eligible — and many local Democrats agree — because his parents live here in Aquebogue. That’s the address on his driver’s license and he votes out here using that address.

He only stays in Brooklyn to ease the commute to his job at the Manhattan law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, his supporters argue. He visits home frequently, they say.

It’s my opinion that Mr. McManmon is a resident of Aquebogue on a technicality at best. In the true spirit of the seat, and in the best interests of the people who live here, he should not be running for this office at this time.

But area Democrats are acting as if nobody has a right to question this. They seem offended anyone would have a problem with a man who spends his nights in Brooklyn and his days in Manhattan representing the North Fork in Albany.

In one of the great foot-in-mouth quotes of the year, Riverhead Town Democratic Committee chairwoman Marge Acevedo said, “His job is in New York City and he travels back and forth. His residency should not be in question at all. There are no real jobs out here and people should take that into consideration.”

Now let’s dissect that spin:

• His residency should not be in question? At all? He freely admits he doesn’t live here.

• No real jobs? For lawyers? A Google search for “Attorney Riverhead,” one of the few American communities with more courthouses than McDonald’s restaurants, returned the maximum 25 pages of search results.

Speaking of questions, does Mr. McManmon pay New York City’s income tax on residents? If so, how can he be a resident both here and there?

It’s a particularly sad display that given several months to find a candidate in a special election for a seat that will be vacant for eight months before the newly elected takes office, Democrats couldn’t even settle on someone who actually lives here. As Democrats continue to control the majority in Albany’s lower house, basic logic says a local Democrat might be able to accomplish more than a Republican.

And the GOP nominee hasn’t exactly hit the ground running for the office. So far, all Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk and party leaders have offered in the early stages of his campaign is a few sound bites on cleaning up corruption in Albany that sound like they were written by state Republican officials. It’s nice to think a local Republican could use his minority seat to clean up the capitol. It’s nice to think about unicorns and magical wizards, too.

Word on the street is that some unhappy Democrats might take legal action in an attempt to challenge Mr. McManmon’s candidacy. They should. His right to vote in Riverhead Town should be questioned as well. While they’re at it, how about looking into the city income tax he could avoid by using his parents’ address?

I live literally a few blocks outside of the 2nd Assembly District, less than 10 minutes from the house where my parents have lived for 35 years, which is inside the district. I work on the North Fork and spend more time here than anywhere else.

That said, I don’t feel I have the right to vote in this district, let alone run for office here. Neither should John McManmon.

 Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or (631) 354-8046.

04/28/13 6:00am
04/28/2013 6:00 AM

John Miller

My mother, borrowing some folk wisdom from the Disney film “Bambi,” routinely told me when I was a lad that if I couldn’t say anything nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. Obviously, at some point over the years, I stopped taking Mom’s (and Bambi’s) advice.

And yet I have something nice to say this week about a man who I had something not so nice to say about in this space not so long ago. The man in question is CBS News correspondent and part-time Shelter Island resident John Miller, who took some grief from me here for a televised report he did on Plum Island that I thought suffered from a rehashing of some oft-told but dubious tales about the island being the birthplace of Lyme disease and the Montauk monster.

After I criticized him here, however, we kissed and made up, after a fashion, and I have admired his work for CBS ever since.

And never have I admired it more than this past Friday night, when he and CBS anchorman Scott Pelley did an outstanding job reporting on the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers implicated in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The former Joan Giger Walker and I had just returned from dinner with friends in Greenport when we turned on our television to scenes of celebration in the streets of Watertown, Mass. The headlines scrolling across the bottom of the screen informed us that there had been an arrest in the case, but all we were seeing were flag-waving crowd scenes and policemen honking the horns of their patrol cars. We were desperate to know the who, what, where, when and how, and all we were getting, as we surfed from channel to channel, was more of the same: crowd shots from Watertown.

Until we switched to CBS, that is. In the space of less than 10 minutes, Scott Pelley and John Miller did a superb job of summarizing the story and the situation. Mr. Miller’s reportage, in particular, was most informative, as he called on his insider’s knowledge of law enforcement gained from his years of experience as a police reporter, as an aide to New York City and Los Angeles police commissioner William Bratton and as assistant director for public affairs with the FBI in Washington, D.C.

In other words, the dude has paid his dues. And never was that more apparent than Friday night on national television, when he and Scott Pelley helped make sense of as complex a news story as we’ve seen in this country since 9/11.

I’d never done this before, but I was so impressed with his reporting that at 9:23 p.m. I fired off the following email to the address I had saved after our tête–à–tête over Plum Island: “John: Great job tonight. Your coverage was very best, by far. (We channel surfed for a while before getting the real story from you and Scott.) Well done, sir.”

And now for the truly amazing part of this tale, remembering that this was a man sitting in a CBS-TV network studio in New York City, having just reported what probably will be the story of the year.

At 9:27 p.m., just four minutes after my original email, I get this back from John Miller:

 “Hey! They blocked the road from the Orient Ferry because they thought he might have made it on to the Cross Sound [Ferry]. Do we know if that is true? Thanks for the kind words. ”

Does this guy have sources, or what? Yes, the road had been blocked earlier in the day, and I was astounded that he knew about it at all, given everything that had been going on in Boston that day. And when I responded by sending him a link to Times/Review’s detailed online coverage of the false alarm at Orient Point, he responded again with a simple “Wow.”

Wow is right. I think I have a new favorite television newsman. And his name is no longer Brian Williams.

When I first met Steve Rosin, some 25 years ago, he was working as an apprentice to electrician Sal Prato. Steve would have been about 30 then, and what I remember most was that he was precise in his workmanship and soft spoken in his bearing. What I didn’t know then, but what I came to learn over the next 2 1/2 decades, as he continued to be our electrician of choice both at home and at work, was that he was kind and funny and incredibly reliable. And, by all accounts, he was a loving and devoted husband to Aileen and father to Sascha.

So it is with great sadness that I acknowledge Steve’s untimely passing this week at the age of 55. That is way too soon for a man of his vigor and lust for life, and it’s going to take me some time to make sense of his death. If I ever do.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

03/11/13 8:00am
03/11/2013 8:00 AM

I’ve never been a big fan of booing. Maybe that’s because it’s such an unnatural reaction.

Screaming, crying, laughing, that’s all real stuff. You do it both on your own and in a group. When have you ever seen someone sitting by himself, booing?

Booing is something you do from a distance, in a mob, and when you don’t really care too much. If you truly hated that slumping athlete, you wouldn’t pay a small fortune to see him play. And if someone was really troubling you, I can’t imagine you’d use just one prolonged syllable to let them know how you feel.

Booing is a primitive distraction that accomplishes nothing — the caveman grunt of modern day reactions.

That’s why on some small level I can see why the Riverhead Town Board banned booing at its meetings, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them.

If you want to object to something a government body is doing, get up before the board and say something — offer a counterpoint or a solution.

We’re in the midst of a full year of politics in Riverhead and the surrounding towns. We’ve already had a special election for the North Fork seat in the county Legislature. And now that Dan Losquadro was elected Brookhaven Highway Superintendent last week, a May vote for the 2nd District seat in the state Assembly is on the horizon.

It’s also been an early town election season in Riverhead, where two challengers have already emerged to oppose a town supervisor they see as vulnerable, and a well-known candidate announced his intention to run for a Council seat before we even Auld Lang Syned in the new year.

It’s safe to say 2013 is going to be a loud year full of eruptions and disruptions at Riverhead Town Hall. Which brings me to what I don’t like about the resolution passed last week: the timing of it all.

The bill will enable the Town Board to admonish anyone they see commit a “disruptive demonstration” in a year where disruptive demonstrations at town meetings will be as common as constructive ones.

This resolution was not passed because booing had gotten out of hand at Riverhead Town Board meetings, but rather because a group of politicians is afraid it soon will. Personally, I’m never in favor of bills that do more to protect elected officials than the people they represent.

What makes this bill even more silly is its vague language: A “disruptive demonstration” is a broad, objective term that could include everything from a quiet belch to a screeching fog horn.

It’s going to be confusing, too, when Councilman Jim Wooten’s supporters start “woooooing” at meetings, as a sign of affection.

The biggest question of all, though, is what the punishment will be for those found in violation of the new code. Do they have to leave the meeting? Or  should they just pop their dunce caps on and retreat to the corner of the room?

It’s certainly an interesting resolution Riverhead has passed, but one that can be just as easily booed as it can be applauded.

gparpan@timesreview.com

02/14/13 10:57am
02/14/2013 10:57 AM

Yes, it’s true, ladies and gentlemen! You have arrived at our annual Academy Awards contest column, wherein readers of same are challenged to pick the winners of the 85th Academy Awards, which will be revealed on ABC-TV on Sunday, Feb. 24. 

Once again this year, due in no small part to a couple of friends who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I have seen all 10 nominees for Best Picture. (Well, to be perfectly honest, 9 1/3 of the films; more on that below.)

And if you can hang in there until the end of this column, there’s a challenge awaiting that could win you a $100 gift certificate to the Mattituck Cinemas.

But first, my picks:

BEST PICTURE—“Les Misérables” is the film I could not make it all the way through. (It was, in fact, miserable.) I’ve always had trouble with dramatic musicals (see 1962’s “State Fair,” with Ann-Margret and Pat Boone crooning in their underwear when normal, red-blooded people would have had other things on their minds), and Russell Crowe’s croaking forced me to admit defeat long before the credits rolled.

Conventional wisdom might indicate Spielberg’s “Lincoln” for the top award, and my personal favorite was “Zero Dark Thirty,” which turned off some moviegoers because its core is a procedural about an obsessed CIA analyst who won’t quit in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But this contest isn’t about who should win, but who will win. And in that case my vote goes to “Argo,” director Ben Affleck’s engaging, if somewhat predictable, retelling of another CIA-based tale. Note: With the exception of “Les Mis,” “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi,” which was a tad too fantastic for my taste, I really (really!) liked the seven other finalists.

BEST DIRECTOR—And the winner is: Spielberg, mostly via default because neither of the real best directors, Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), was nominated.

Longshot: Michael Haneke (“Amour”) — because he got the very best out of his lead actors, 82-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva. But when asked by a friend if I liked the film, I emphatically responded: “No, it’s way too depressing.”

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”). You may safely bet the ranch on this one. If ever there were a prohibitive favorite in this category, it is Mr. Day Lewis. His bravura performance as our nation’s 16th president actually outshines his earlier bravura performances in “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood,” etc.

Longshot/Should Be: Don’t even bother.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”). She may be young, but she’s building an impressive body of work, including in “The Help,” “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter.” And there would have been no “Zero Dark Thirty” without her riveting performance.

Longshot: Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Like Chastain, she’s young and previously overlooked. But as with her 2011 performance in “Winter’s Bone,” this one may be a tad too dark and too quirky for the decidedly conservative Academy members.

Honorable Mention: Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), who was 5 years old when this movie was filmed, and is the youngest actress ever nominated for this award.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”). This time, his deadpan delivery, bloodhound eyelids and southern inflection work to perfection as Lincoln’s vice president.

Longshots: Alan Arkin (“Argo”) and Robert DeNiro (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Both of these old pros chew up the scenery in engaging but predictable roles.

And the winner should be: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but not for his performance in “The Master,” for which he is nominated. Rather, for his performance in “The Late Quartet,” an outstanding ensemble piece roundly snubbed by the Academy.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Sally Field (“Lincoln”) in a brave performance as Honest Abe’s somewhat-unsympathetic mate. It’s also the safe pick, me thinks.

And the winner should be: Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”). Speaking of brave, what other 50-something actress would consider a role that requires her to appear in the buff for what seems like most of the film?

And now, the chance to claim that $100 gift certificate. All you must do to win is locate this column online at suffolktimes.com and be the first to post a comment below naming the most winners in the six categories cited above — having done so, of course, prior to the Sunday, Feb. 24, airing of the Academy Awards broadcast. Sorry, but in the event of a tie, the value of the gift certificate will be divided by the number of winners. But once again this year, popcorn is included.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

02/06/13 2:00pm
02/06/2013 2:00 PM

Page 3 of the Feb. 11, 1988 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

25 years ago

Riverhead detective indicted in illegal taping scandal

Town police detective Vincent Gianni was indicted on Feb. 9, 1988 on perjury charges for allegedly making a false statement to a grand jury investigating the illegal taping of outgoing calls made by people in custody at Riverhead police headquarters, according to a story in that week’s Riverhead News-Review.

Det. Gianni was indicted after a female juror asked if he had ever listened to the recordings. He responded “no ma’am.”  However, other officers testified that he had listened to the tapes.

Postscript: The charge against Det. Gianni was dropped about a month later. Later that same year he was probed in another scandal, in which it was alleged he used drugs on the job, supplied drugs to others and twice tipped a friend to a drug raid on her home. He resigned in June 1989 after 16 years on the force and the case against him was closed, according to a Newsday report.

SEE A COLLECTION OF HISTORIC RIVERHEAD PHOTOS

5 years ago

Endangered owl found at EPCAL

An endangered species of owl is apparently wintering at the former Grumman site in Calverton, a discovery that could have significant implications for Riverhead’s development plans at EPCAL, former executive editor Denise Civiletti wrote in a Feb. 7, 2008 story in the News-Review.

Patricia Pelkowski, Pine Barrens site director for The Nature Conservancy, told us at least three short-eared owls were living at the site.

Postscript: A month after this story was published, former Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale met at the site with News-Review photographer Barbaraellen Koch. He was sitting in his car explaining how there were no owls there when she spotted one. Check out the hilarious photo below of him seeing for himself.

15 years ago

Ex-supervisor’s son killed in Route 25A crash

Jared Janoski, the youngest son of former Riverhead Town Supervisor Joe Janoski, was killed in a Route 25A crash on Feb. 1, 1998, we reported in that week’s News-Review.

Mr. Janoski, who was 27 years old at the time, was driving alone when his Nissan veered off the roadway and struck a tree.

He was a left fielder on the 1987 Shoreham-Wading River baseball team that won a state championship.

20 years ago

New council targets Suffolk Theater renovation

The East End Arts Council’s Business Council decided at its inaugural meeting Jan. 20, 1993 that it would explore the possibility of restoring the Suffolk Theater on Main Street in Riverhead, reporter Bob Liepa wrote in the Feb. 4 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

“I think the Suffolk Theater could be a tremendous magnet for downtown Riverhead,” said then-East End Arts Council president Troy Gustavson, who was also the News-Review publisher at the time.

Mr. Gustavson said the cost to renovate the theater, which was put up for sale in 1987, might be too much and the council had only begun to explore avenues of funding.

Postscript: Many dollars and years later, the Suffolk Theater will finally reopen next month.

Little Flower caregiver charged with abusing kids

A childcare worker at Little Flower Children’s Services in Wading River was arrested for sexually abusing seven children on Feb. 5, 1993, according to a News-Review report.

Barry J. Wiggins, who was 28 years old and living in Riverhead at the time, was accused of fondling the boys, who ranged in age from 13 to 15 years old, we wrote.

The incidents took place over the course of an entire year, police said at the time.

Postscript: Mr. Wiggins was convicted in December 1993 and served three years in jail. He now lives in South Carolina, where he is a registered sex offender.

30 years ago

Library opens at SWR High School, pool next?

The North Shore Public Library opened at Shoreham-Wading River High School the week of Feb. 10, 1983, according to that week’s edition of the News-Review. But the brief we published focused on another expansion that never came to fruition.

“[If voter’s approve], a $2 million swimming pool will be the next addition to the school,” we wrote.

The 100 x 200 pool would be financed by floating bonds, we reported. (I’m not sure if the pun was intended.)

Postscript: The district has previously proposed building two more “training pools” at the elementary schools, but that was scrapped by the time the high school pool resolution was adopted. Based on the fact that the school has no pool today, I’d guess voters “sank” the measure that March.

45 years ago

Two-million dollar river span is planned

A second highway bridge has been tentatively planned to span the Peconic River just east of Riverhead, we reported in the Feb. 8, 1968 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

The new bridge, which would cost an estimated $2 million, will be part of a 6 1/2 mile roadway cutting south from Hubbard Road in Aquebogue to the Riverhead-Quogue Road south of Ludlam Avenue in Southampton, we wrote.

Postscript: These days it’s hard to imagine the area without the 105 bridge.

75 years ago

The fat lady at the circus is a winnah

On this platform lad-e-e-s and gentleman, you will see Little Luella, one of the fattest of fat ladies in the entire w-o-o-rld, read the lead of a Feb. 11, 1938 Riverhead News story about the circus coming to Roanoke Avenue High School.

The circus, which the story noted would feature “midgets” among its 100 performers, was being presented as a fundraiser for the American Legion. Organizers expected it to net $10,000.

Postscript: Yup, we had a different style back then. 

gparpan@timesreview.com

02/03/13 6:00am
02/03/2013 6:00 AM
A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings.

So I have this old, rusty, single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun sitting in the corner of our bedroom, awaiting its fate.

What to do with it? Leave it where it lies, indefinitely? Attempt to melt it down in the burn barrel out back by the garage? (No, that would be against all sorts of laws, including those of nature.) Sell it through this newspaper’s classified ads? (No, can’t do that because the paper no longer accepts such ads, even for “antique” guns.) Or perhaps eBay? (No, “actual firearms” can’t be listed for sale there either.)

What to do with it? Hey, I have an idea: Why not encourage local police departments to implement gun buyback programs similar to those that have been so successful around the nation, particularly in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

This is basically how they work: Police departments set a place and time where and when guns of any sort — from single-shot derringers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to the sort of multi-round assault rifle used to mow down elementary school children in Connecticut — are turned in voluntarily, with no questions asked. Those turning in the guns are compensated — sometimes with cash, but more often with gift cards that can’t be used to buy another gun — and the unwanted guns are properly disposed of by the cops.

I very much doubt that buyback programs here would generate the quantity of guns produced in big city programs, if only because our populations are so much smaller by comparison. But any gun taken off the street is a gun that won’t figure in an accident or an act of violence, such as the tragic shooting in Flanders this weekend, and that’s a very good thing.

Skeptics routinely disparage them as “feel good” programs that do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the criminally insane, but that’s not the only objective. As The Trenton (N.J.) Times editorialized after that city’s recent gun buyback program: “They represent an opportunity to safely dispose of old and malfunctioning firearms that could mean death in the hands of a child. We regulate the disposal of appliances, of paint, of outdated medication lest they spill destructive chemicals. It’s logical to be as conscientious about the clearing away of potentially deadly instruments.”

This week I have surveyed the chiefs of police in Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island, asking them if they would support such a program in their towns, and I will let readers of this column know their responses as soon as I receive them. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department used to buy back guns, but that program was discontinued when the grant money dried up, according to the department’s public information office.

And time is wasting, as they say, with recent reports in this newspaper about unprecedented sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of the passage of New York State’s tough new Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

Meanwhile, a reader of my December column on gun control has pledged $1,000 to help implement such a program in Southold Town. And depending on the response we receive from the police chiefs, the former Joan Giger Walker and I will pledge another $1,000.

I wonder how many other community members would be willing to make small pledges to get the guns off our streets.

And if you’re wavering on this question, please take to heart these words of ex-New York City policeman Howard Martin of Manorville, as quoted in this newspaper last week: “Behind every tree, every window, every door there is a gun. It is the one thing that keeps America free.”

And bloody.

12/22/12 7:58am
12/22/2012 7:58 AM

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

— Second Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution 

“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

—National Rifle Association
bumper sticker 

So the Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic carbine that fired 11 lethal bullets into the body of a 6-year-old last Friday in Newtown, Conn. was legally purchased and licensed by the killer’s mother. Oh, isn’t that reassuring.

And where will it happen next time — and there will be a next time, there’s always a next time — a nursing home? Or the halls of Congress? It’s not a question of when, only of where.

This madness must stop, and it’s perfectly clear to me where we must start. And it’s not with better mental health screening or with better security in schools or, as some idiots have suggested, with arming school principals.

We must start by banning the ownership of semi-automatic (and automatic) weapons by private citizens. Period.

Screw the Second Amendment. We no longer have a “well regulated Militia.” Nowhere is it written that we have a right to own weapons of mass destruction. The guns Adam Lanza wielded last week — and I’m talking about both the rifle and the two semi-automatic pistols — should be available only to military and law enforcement personnel. And the ones already in circulation should be subject to a buyback program like the one that worked so successfully in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

And that’s not all we should do. No one who walks into a gun show should be able to walk out with a new gun. Anyone who purchases a new gun should be subject to a reasonable waiting period — during which his or her background should be properly vetted — before taking possession of that gun. And the vetting doesn’t have to be that complex. In Canada, they require gun purchasers to provide two personal references, which probably would have stopped the obviously troubled Adam Lanza in his tracks … if his mother hadn’t purchased those assault weapons legally. Which is exactly my point. Those guns never should have been available to her.

To do what I’m suggesting will, of course, involve a direct confrontation with those defenders of the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association. Bring it on. In the wake of this epidemic of mass killings in America, the NRA can no longer be considered viable or relevant. If it doesn’t moderate its position, these treacherous assault weapons must be pried from the organization’s cold, dead hands.

The U.S. Constitution is not, and was never intended to be, inviolate. It has, and it must, change with the times. Government must have the power to regulate assault weapons — just as it has the power to ban smoking in public places or require the use of seat belts — neither of which could have been foreseen by our founding fathers. (Also, see suffrage for women and the abolition of slavery.)

I had hoped President Obama would address the gun control issue when he spoke in Newtown Sunday night. His remarks were sensitive and consoling, but I think he missed, once again, an opportunity to say what must be said. I kept thinking to myself, “OK, Mr. President, but what are you going to DO? Specifically, what are you going to DO?”

If Barack Obama is the man I think he is, the man I hope he is, the man I’ve voted for two times now, he ultimately will be remembered as the president who led the fight to bring some sanity to the issue of gun ownership in America.

tgustavson@timesreview.com