If these were the only public safety proposals offered by Gov. Ned Lamont and his Democratic allies in the legislature, gun owners in Connecticut would probably be breathing a sigh of relief. But Lamont’s calls to go after repeat, violent offenders comes after he’s laid out a laundry list of gun control measures targeting the state’s legal gun owners, which makes Tuesday’s announcement look more like an afterthought than anything else.
One day after another mass shooting, this time at Michigan State University, Gov. Ned Lamont and big-city mayors called Tuesday for a more extensive crackdown on gun crimes by repeat offenders.
The mayors are focusing on a narrow set of criminals — often already convicted felons — who are responsible for a large share of the shootings in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport and New Haven. If the repeat offenders remained behind bars longer, they would not be on the streets to commit more crimes, the mayors said.
Of those arrested in Hartford last year for shootings, 39% were on pretrial release, 14% on probation and 5% on parole, the mayors said. The situation is similar in Waterbury, where 40% of those arrested for shootings were on probation and 30% were on pretrial release.
“This is about saving lives,’’ said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “We know this is only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s an important piece. It means there has to be serious consequences for serious firearm offenses.’’
Again, I doubt you’ll find many responsible gun owners who’d disagree. The problem is that Lamont and his fellow gun prohibitionists want to treat peaceable gun owners as if they’re repeat, violent felons. The governor’s calling for a host of new laws that would criminalize common aspects of the right to keep and bear arms, from expanding the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons to prohibiting adults under the age of 21 from lawfully purchasing a firearm. As the Connecticut Citizens Defense League pointed out in its response to Lamont’s gun control agenda:
[T]he Governor’s proposals not only fall short of fixing the issue, but present flawed and misdirected policies that will actually worsen the very urban crime wave the Governor claims to be addressing.
CCDL has long advocated for early intervention and education. In 2017, CCDL revealed that a 20 year-old law requiring development of a school safety curriculum had never been implemented. That being the case, CCDL advocated that Public Act 19-5 (aka Ethan’s Law) contain language requiring the State Department of Education to finally develop that curriculum for our schools. The curriculum teaches Connecticut youth essential firearm safety including: not to touch firearms, managing peer pressure, and responsible actions around firearms. While CCDL continues its on-going mission for every Connecticut child to have access to this critical information, not one of the public schools in any of the cities run by mayors who surrounded the Governor at today’s press conference has implemented this life-saving curriculum.
The open carry of firearms has long been lawful, safe, and relatively rare in Connecticut. Most permit holders choose concealed carry, although some choose to open carry . In an awkward attempt to support banning open carry, Attorney General Tong referenced a singular incident from 2016 in which a Black legally-permitted man was stopped by Bridgeport Police when attempting to order lunch, without the police having any suspicion that he committed a crime. Dredging up a 7-year old incident of a law-abiding Black man seeking to exercise his constitutional rights without bothering anyone underscores that the administration is completely out of touch with the real issues of crime plaguing our state today.
Laws limiting the number of firearm transfers , as proposed today, often have tragic consequences. There are a multitude of reasons why a lawful gun owner may need to transfer numerous firearms at a time. An individual experiencing a mental health episode and seeking to temporarily relinquish possession of several firearms to another trusted individual or to a federal firearms licensee would be prohibited from doing so. A widow or widower may wish for their spouse’s firearms to go to a permitted adult child who may be better able to secure them. There are scores of reasons that simultaneous lawful transfers are necessary. Straw purchases are already illegal at both the state level and federal level. In the last legislative session, the Commission on Community Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention was created, yet it does not include a single seat for a representative of gun owners in this state. If the Governor was serious about finding real solutions to the state’s violent crime spike, he would invite us to the table. His continued failure to do so is telling.
The lion’s share of shootings in the state involve individuals who are already well-known to police and the local court system, but Lamont seems to view responsible gun ownership as a bigger problem. Even the proposals announced on Tuesday aren’t solely directed at violent criminals. Lamont and the Connecticut mayors on hand for his announcement also want to increase the criminal penalty for simple possession of a “large capacity” magazine or a home-built, unserialized firearm; both measures that could ensnare peaceable gun owners throughout the state.
You don’t fight crime by creating new criminal offenses carved out of the fundamental right to armed self-defense, but that’s exactly the strategy that Lamont is adopting in Connecticut. His crusade is less about public safety and more about eradicating legal gun ownership, but thankfully groups like the CCLD are fighting back at the statehouse and in federal court.