Most gun control provisions stripped from CT public safety bill

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Just a few weeks ago Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told lawmakers during his State of the State speech that “you’re not tough on crime if you’re weak on guns,” and laid out a public safety proposal chock full of new restrictions on legal gun owners. Second Amendment groups like the Connecticut Citizens Defense League blasted the governor for his anti-gun agenda, and Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize his proposals as well.

In a state as blue as Connecticut, though, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Democrats in charge of the statehouse would eagerly adopt the governor’s latest gun control demands. In a surprising and somewhat shocking twist, however, almost all of Lamont’s new restrictions were stripped out of the crime bill by both Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The pared down version of Lamont’s anti-crime bill was unveiled before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, more than two weeks after Republicans and hundreds of anti-gun-control advocates sounded off against the governor’s plans, which also included mandatory trigger locks, a state license for gun dealers and language allowing police to stop people openly carrying firearms to request to see their permits.

Nearly all of those provisions were stripped from the governor’s bill, cutting its length from 52 pages to three.

The latest version of the bill includes $2.5 million over the next two years for a task force to work with neighboring states on investigating the proliferation of illegal guns flowing across state lines, as well as a new working group to study the “feasibility” of setting up a state licensing system for gun dealers.

Republicans on the committee, who had previously chafed at the bill’s “onerous” gun restrictions, instead praised their Democratic counterparts for settling on a bi-partisan agreement. All but two of the Republicans on the committee ultimately voted in favor of advancing the bill.

According to Holly Sullivan, head of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, that working group has to include the National Shooting Sports Foundation as one of the members, which is another positive development.

The best news, however, is that 48 pages worth of infringements on our Second Amendment rights were taken out of the bill, including:

  • a new “assault weapons” ban that would have made it illegal to possess an AR- or AK-style pistol with a stabilizing brace as well as other restrictions on home-built firearms
  • new prohibitions on lawful carrying in polling places, public buildings, public transportation, and during protests
  • a statewide gun “buyback” program
  • a new license for gun dealers

This is huge news, and it’s a blow not only to Lamont but to the gun control lobby as well, even if they’re trying to put up a brave front.

Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, said the decision to cut the most contentious aspects of the governor’s proposal would allow lawmakers to focus on other legislation establishing a commission to oversee community anti-violence programs in cities like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport that are experiencing a surge in shootings and homicides.

“They have very limited time in a short session and they have to prioritize what is important and what they can get through, they can’t do it all,” Stein said of lawmakers. “I think this is a message that this session we need to be really prioritizing community gun violence and that kind of tweaking our existing laws and making them stronger, maybe that can wait ‘till next session.”

Stein knows damn well that this wasn’t a matter of lawmakers having to make difficult decisions about their priorities. The 52-page bill crammed full of gun control could have been adopted along party lines and enacted into law in a short period of time, and if Democratic leadership in the legislature thought it would help them this November that’s exactly what would have happened.

Instead, thanks at least in part to the massive pushback by Connecticut 2A activists, Democrats realized the safe bet would be to scuttle these anti-gun restrictions. We’ll be talking more about this with Holly Sullivan on Monday’s Cam & Co, and I’m looking forward to getting her take on this very good news.

As for Stein, I find it fascinating that he’s not pushing back against the removal of these gun control measures, but I’m pleased to see he’s admitted that adding more laws aimed at legal gun owners isn’t the best way to address violent crime. Unlike Stein, however, I’d encourage lawmakers to wait until the year after never to put any more gun control laws in place. Keep the focus on the violent criminals, and work to restore the Second Amendment rights of residents instead of putting more restrictions on the books.