Gun owners, Republicans pan CT gun control bills in heated hearing

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

While states from Alabama to Ohio are adopting Constitutional Carry laws, in Connecticut the Democrat-dominated state legislature is likely to slap even more gun control laws on the books this year. On Monday, lawmakers held a marathon hearing covering Gov. Ned Lamont’s package of anti-gun bills as well as several pro-2A bills, and got an earful from dozens of gun owners as well as Republican legislators who say that the governor’s measures would violate the Second Amendment rights of citizens while failing to protect the public from violent criminals.

Lamont, who said in his State of the State address earlier this year that you can’t be tough on crime if you’re “weak on guns,” is hoping to add a host of new criminal penalties aimed at legal gun owners, including prohibiting lawful carrying on public transportation, near polling places, and political demonstrations; bans on home-built and unserialized firearms; and new language broadening the state’s current restrictions on semi-automatic rifles.

Among the hundreds of people who signed up to testify was Walt Knudson of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, who said the vast majority of the governor’s proposals are “pure, biased gun control” that “won’t do a thing for crime,” while Democrats seemed to reserve most of their criticism for the gun owners who showed up to defend their Second Amendment rights.

State Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, one of the longest serving members of the legislature and the committee, criticized Republican claims on the proposals in general, commending Rovella and Lamont for helping keep Connecticut “a national leader” in gun-safety laws.

“When I see fascist-leaning, gun-toting people wanting to overturn democracy and replace it with government by dictatorship, I get really, really angry and I get really frightened and will continue to fight that,” Godfrey said. “So when I see a proposal that says no guns in polling places? There’re entire groups of people who would like to overturn elections. When we see that people are afraid when they see someone carrying a gun openly in public places, they’re frightened.”

Bob may have been around the legislature for awhile, but he’s got a piss-poor understanding of what fascism is, considering the vast majority of gun owners I know would describe themselves as anti-authoritarian. But gun owners are a reliable bogeyman for anti-gun Democrats, especially because focusing on those dastardly individuals exercising their constitutional rights takes attention away from the Democrats’ half-hearted attempt to look tough on crime.

Most of the first hours of testimony focused on firearms. On juvenile justice issues, state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan and Marisa Halm, director of the Youth Justice Project in the Center for Children’s Advovacy, warned that the main juvenile jail, the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire, has been found in violation of children’s rights.

State Rep. Craig Fishbein of Wallingford, a top Republican on the committee who is leading GOP efforts to make it easier for police to hold and arraign repeat juvenile suspects, said he was worried that under the governor’s current proposal, responding police would only be able to access the records of youths going back 90 days.

“At some point someone’s got to say you’re doing something wrong,” Fishbein said, supporting a Republican proposal to expand the crimes for juveniles to be taken to adult court..

“Let’s just say that a juvenile has been convicted of stealing three cars,” Fishbein said. “Those convictions happened two years ago or thereabouts. An officer in the field would not know that and they would not be able to get access to that information. They would only know about recent cases within 90 days.”

Lamont’s gun control bills are truly awful, but his criminal justice “reform” measures are just as bad. What on earth is the point of restricting law enforcement’s access to a juvenile’s entire criminal history, for instance? James Rovella, who’s the commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, couldn’t answer Fishbein except to say that officials found that to be an “appropriate” time limit.

Getting tough on legal gun owners while going soft on juvenile offenders isn’t just an awful approach to public safety and the protection of our civil rights. It’s also likely to have an impact in this November’s elections. Connecticut may be a deep blue state, but a red wave could sweep some longtime anti-gun lawmakers out of office and restore some semblance of sanity to the state capitol. Between now and then I know that 2A activists will continue to make their voices heard, but I don’t know how many Democratic lawmakers like Bob Godfrey are willing to listen.