Lamont's gun ban plan not mentioned in his State of the State address

Lamont's gun ban plan not mentioned in his State of the State address
AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Last fall, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont raised a lot of eyebrows when he called for an expansion of the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons during a debate with his Republican opponent in the race for governor. Lamont vowed to not only block the sale and manufacture of modern sporting rifles, but to ban their continued possession as well, telling reporters after the debate that the most commonly-sold rifles in the country were “killers” that “should not be allowed in the state of Connecticut.”

When Lamont addressed state lawmakers today for his State of the State address, however, the governor’s gun grab received nary a mention from the podium. Lamont called on legislators to address the high housing costs and crumbling infrastructure in the state, but devoted no time whatsoever to gun control or even the state’s issues with violent crime, despite the fact that the state capital of Hartford just saw a record-high number of homicides last year.

What explains Lamont’s decision to not include his proposed gun ban in his wish list for lawmakers? It probably comes down to the fact that many of his fellow Democrats have been less than supportive of his plan over the past couple of months… at least those serving in the legislature (as opposed to opining in the media).

Twice, in 1993 and then again after the Sandy Hook massacre a decade ago, the General Assembly has passed laws banning the sale of certain military-style weapons, most notably the AR-15 and its many variations.

But each time, the legislature assured gun owners that a “grandfather” provision would allow them to retain those guns. A seizure of tens of thousands of firearms was a legal and political line lawmakers were unwilling to cross.

Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee that is crucial to the passage of gun laws, said he senses no appetite in the General Assembly to go back on the assurances made to gun owners.

“If you’ve told people you’re going to operate in a certain way, particularly grandfathering people and things like this particular issue, it’s a really hard hurdle to clear,” Winfield said.

Lamont, who was reelected by 12 percentage points, insists he is ready to try, even though he’s already been warned that passing a bill requiring gun seizures would be extremely difficult, even in a state with some of the nation’s toughest gun laws.

“If I don’t try now, who will try?” Lamont said.

If Lamont was going to put his full political weight behind his ban, he probably would have brought it up during today’s address to lawmakers. Instead, he talked about tax cuts, housing costs, and even the importance of protecting individual liberty; an awfully hypocritical stance for someone who wants to guts the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Unlike the bitter political atmosphere in Congress, the events around the 14-acre State Capitol complex were polite, friendly and generally bipartisan. But Lamont acknowledged that people “have to fight for your freedoms” at a time when nationally, many politicians are divided on LGBTQ rights and the availability of women’s reproductive support.

“These are American values,” Lamont said to applause during an eight-minute acceptance speech.

Know what’s not an American value? Banning commonly-owned firearms and turning law-abiding citizens into criminals for daring to exercise a constitutionally-protected right.

I’d love to believe that Lamont’s lack of promotion for his gun ban is a sign that his anti-2A efforts are now on the back burner, but I’m not convinced that’s the case, especially with other Democratic governors like Jay Inslee of Washington and Illinois’ J.B. Pritzker vowing to enact “assault weapon” bans of their own this year. Lamont has previously indicated he’s willing to spend some political capital in order to persuade reluctant lawmakers to back his prohibitionist proposal, and he may very well use the upcoming vote in Illinois as an opportunity to push his ban again.

Today, however, Lamont’s “assault weapons” ban was the dog that didn’t bark, and that’s very good news for Connecticut gun owners. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can afford to get complacent, and we’ll be talking about the very real threats to their Second Amendment rights on Thursday’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co with Holly Sullivan of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League… as well as getting an update on CCDL’s federal lawsuit challenging the state’s current ban on modern sporting rifles. Holly’s one of the best advocates for our right to keep and bear arms that I know of, and I’m really looking forward to getting her take on what the state’s gun owners can expect this year.