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Four Letter to the Editor Responses for Newtown Bee Readers

ICYMI - On July 21, reader Brian Hartgraves requested a response from current State Senator Tony Hwang and State Representative Mitch Bolinsky on four crucial issues here. Pending a reply, on August 18, reader Gavin Arneth submitted a second request for a response from the two officials here. I submitted my responses for publishing, printed below. On September 1, Doria Linnetz called for current State Senator Tony Hwang to similarly submit public responses.

I believe people should know where their representation stands on issues that impact our daily lives and freedoms, no matter what. These are my public responses to Newtown readers, and all others in their district, so that there is no question about what I stand for.

Where do you stand on the steps Connecticut has taken to ensure women have access to critical reproductive healthcare? This Dobbs decision issued by the Supreme Court in June — overturning the nearly fifty-year precedent on legal abortion set by Roe — takes away Americans’ freedom to make their own personal decisions about their own families. As we are already seeing in the headlines, it also critically endangers the lives and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of pregnant women around the country, as doctors can no longer use their best medical judgment to care for their patients without fear of legal jeopardy.

I’m proud to live in a state that has taken strong steps to protect our basic rights, such as the recent passage of Public Act 22-19, which protects medical providers and out-of-state patients seeking abortion care in Connecticut. As an elected representative, I will be a staunch advocate for women throughout the state, and ensure that Connecticut continues to be a leader among states in safeguarding reproductive rights. That includes new issues like protecting sensitive health data that could be subject to surveillance and digital tracking.

Where do you stand on continuing to limit semi-automatic weapons in Connecticut?

As someone who served in the military for four years and was trained extensively in gun handling and safety, I believe that semi-automatic weapons should continue to be limited in the state of Connecticut. I’m glad that Connecticut has some of the strongest gun control regulations in the country and leads the nation with background check and permit requirements for purchase. That being said, there are still more measures that Connecticut could pass to further shore up gun safety, like enacting childproofing requirements for new gun models, imposing a mandatory wait time before someone can legally make a gun purchase, and regulating bulk purchases of firearms. It's unfortunate that common sense gun laws have become so deeply partisan. It was heartening to see that President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into federal law after a major coalition effort from advocates and elected officials, but not a single Republican in the Connecticut General Assembly supported strengthening our state’s red flag laws. This is despite clear evidence indicating the efficacy of gun control reform in reducing homicides, suicides and gun-related accidents: a study found that in the decade following the implementation of permit-to-purchase legislation, gun homicides in the state dropped 40%.

Where do you stand on the work of the January 6th committee investigating all parties who tried to overturn an election through violence, lies and deceit?

When the riots that attacked our nation’s Capitol happened on January 6th, 2021, I was in the middle of transitioning out of the military and deciding how I wanted to live and work back home in Connecticut. In the army I’d met soldiers across the country with all kinds of political perspectives—we could discuss our differences and show respect for the democratic process of resolving them. But to see the walls of our Capitol scaled, and the Senate chamber violently overrun, all based on a lie? That had a deep impact on me. And I think it showed us all how fragile our democracy really is. I’m grateful for the work of the January 6th committee, both to confirm how serious this attack was, and to push back on the thinking that caused it, to restore some trust in our democratic process. Since that day, I became motivated to roll up my sleeves and get involved locally. If we aim to uphold our nation’s founding ideals – liberty, justice, freedom for all – it’s time for elected officials to set aside narrow political interests and start putting people and principles first to help solve the problems facing our state and our country.

Do you believe President Biden was fairly elected to his office of President of the United States?

I do believe that President Biden was fairly elected to his office of President of the United States. Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our political freedom. Yet, people’s faith in electoral institutions has been shaken by all the misinformation that gets pushed at us. Shedding doubt on the integrity of our elections and curtailing access to the polls for political benefit is part of a problematic trend across the country. While that seems far away from us here in Connecticut, I was surprised to see our own state senator making it harder for us to vote during a pandemic. Last year, the State Senate passed legislation that would allow anyone concerned about contracting COVID-19 to vote by absentee ballot, but Senator Hwang voted against this common-sense measure, claiming it was “creating a solution for a problem that is not there.” Personally, I think it is a problem to make constituents choose between their health and their right to vote. In the military, I always voted by absentee ballot; there’s no reason we shouldn't be able to extend the same option to seniors or those who are immunocompromised. Legislators should not stand in the way of measures that help ensure Americans’ ability to exercise their right to vote. We should all be able to agree that our democracy is stronger when we include as many voices as possible.

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