Papers Please: Town Wants Gun Owners To Show Permits Upon Request

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Lawmakers in Stamford, Connecticut are asking for the state legislature to impose a new restriction on legal gun owners: require them to produce their gun permit upon request by police.

The move is billed by supporters as a way to get “illegal guns off the street,” but some of the representatives sitting in the town’s legislature say the measure would be unconstitutional and could lead to big problems.

Rep. J.R. McMullen, one of the nine representatives who voted against the resolution, said he couldn’t vote in favor of a resolution that asks the state legislature to consider making a law that he claims would be unconstitutional.

“I don’t know why we’re asking the state to do something that wastes their time, when there is so much other stuff that they failed to do over the last year and half that we should get them to focus on,” McMullen said.

McMullen was joined by Gloria DePina, Bradley Michelson, Susan Nabel, Selina Policar, Robert Roqueta, Bob Lion, Dennis Mahoney and Nina Sherwood in opposing the resolution.

Nabel said the reason she couldn’t support the resolution was she felt it could be used as a backdoor for police to racially profile city residents.

“I’m still of the feeling that this is too fragile a situation, too likely to lead to profiling and possibly puts police officers and the public around them in danger,” she said.

I happen to agree with both McMullen and Nabel in their objections. This is really a non-issue, and I have no doubt taht imposing the requirement on legal gun owners will lead to a disproportionate number of minorities being stopped and questioned by police.

Still, despite the objections, supporters of the “papers please” resolution got their wish, even though Rep. Jeff Curtis, one of the sponsors of the resolution, couldn’t really point to a problem in the city.

Curtis, another of the resolution’s co-sponsors, said there were six incidents in Stamford over the past couple of years where police were called to check on a person bearing a firearm. In all but one of the incidents, the gun owners were “more than happy” to show their permit, which he offered as proof that a change to state law, if enacted, wouldn’t be too intrusive.

“My situation here is that people that want to carry guns illegally know that the state law allows them to refuse to show their license, so what is to prevent someone who is carrying illegally, who knows the law, to just say ‘I’m sorry but my constitutional rights and state law says I don’t have to show you my gun permit,’” Curtis said.

If the state were to pass a law requiring gun owners to show their permit when asked by police, as is recommended by the resolution, that would “lend itself” to getting illegal guns off the street, Curtis said.

So there’ve only been six cases in the past two years where police were called to check on a person carrying a gun, and only once did a gun owner refuse to voluntarily produce their permit (Connecticut requires all legal gun owners to have a permit, which also serves as their carry permit). Because one person didn’t submit to the police’s request (and acted lawfully in doing so), Curtis wants to change state law and allow police to view anyone exercising their Second Amendment rights as a suspected criminal? Should we allow police to pull over anyone behind the wheel of a car just to make sure they have a driver’s license?

Given that gun owners aren’t an issue in Stamford, I’d suggest that the city legislature spend its time on an actual problem: the “alarming rise” in overdose deaths in the city. It sounds to me like that’s a bigger issue for Stamford, and one that doesn’t involve the exercise of a civil right.