Target repeat offenders, not legal gun owners

Several Connecticut mayors are pleading with the state legislature to crack down on repeat, violent offenders, but some Democrats in the state appear to be far more excited about criminalizing the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense instead. As we first reported last week, the mayors joined Gov. Ned Lamont in a press conference calling for tougher punishment for those repeatedly convicted of violent crimes, and now the Hartford Courant newspaper has done a pretty good job of digging into the data; which does indeed back up the mayors’ assertions that repeat offenders are responsible for the lion’s share of the growing violence in Connecticut cities.

In Hartford, shooting suspects had long criminal records; half those arrested over the last three years had been arrested in the city for something else within the prior year and one half. On average, they had 10 prior arrests, three for felonies. Most are men (95%), 18- to 34-years-old (70%).
Hartford data drawn from 345 gun violence incidents between January 2019 and March 2021 shows that 85% of the suspects arrested for gun crimes had been convicted of gun crimes previously.
Last year, of the 44 people arrested in Hartford for murders or attempted murders with guns, 39% had charges pending from other crimes, but had been released from custody after posting bond. Fifteen percent were on probation. Five percent were on parole. Of those arrested last year, 39% had prior convictions for violent felonies or gun crimes.
According to an analysis from the chief state attorney, an individual who’s previously been convicted of a gun-related offense is 8,000 times more likely to be arrested for a shooting than a legal gun owner, and yet Lamont and other Democrats in the state have made it clear that their top priority this session is passing curbs on the Second Amendment rights of residents.
Big city support is no guarantee that the proposed legislation will succeed — even after the more punitive aspects in the proposals were dialed back to appease lawmakers who believe cities are already over-policed and prosecuted.
State Rep. Steven Staftstrom, the Bridgeport Democrat who is House chairman of the legislature’s influential judiciary committee, would not handicap chances of the mayors’ proposals being enacted, but said he personally supports “reasonable tweaks” that “enhance public safety and cut down on gun violence in our cities.”
“Connecticut actually saw a precipitous drop in crime over the last decades as we have been smart on crime rather than just being tough on crime,” he said.
“States like Connecticut that have stronger gun control laws but are smart on criminal justice have vastly lower rates of gun violence than states that are just tough on crime and may have more lax gun laws,” Staftstrom said. “That’s why the committee’s focus has really been on access to firearms, particularly over the last several years.”
Almost every state in the nation saw the same precipitous drops in crime dating back to the early 1990s, including those that expanded the Second Amendment’s protections instead of infringing on them. And Connecticut’s gun control regime hasn’t stopped murders from rising in recent years in cities like Hartford and New Haven, nor has it prevented a more than 20% increase in the number of forcible rapes reported to police.
There’s something to be said for being “smart on crime”; using things like targeted deterrence to focus on the most violent offenders in society. But that’s not what Connecticut has done, with all due respect to Staftstrom. The state has repeatedly gone after law-abiding gun owners and their right to keep and bear arms with the false promise that banning “assault weapons” and requiring a permit to purchase a firearm will stop violent crime when in reality, the laws have simply burdened responsible citizens, and in some cases have left them in a legal limbo for months on end while they wait in vain for their permits to be approved.
It’s a sad reflection of the state’s Democratic political dominance (as well as the skewed priorities for the party in power) that these proposals to get tough on repeat, violent offenders are likely to be as or even more controversial on the left than Lamont’s laundry list of new gun control laws. A bill to jack up the price of ammunition is already scheduled for a hearing this week, and the Connecticut Citizens Defense League says other anti-gun bills could soon be heard at the statehouse, including Lamont’s plan to expand the state’s ban on “assault weapons” and prohibit the lawful open carrying of firearms. So far, however, the mayors’ pleas to address career criminals don’t appear to be nearly as important for the anti-gunners in control of the legislature.

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