Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed package of new gun control laws, which feature everything from expanding the state’s ban on “assault weapons” to instituting a gun rationing scheme, ran into a buzzsaw of opposition at the Connecticut state capitol on Monday. Thousands of residents signed up to testify either in person or through written statements as the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the package, with the vast majority of them objecting to the governor’s attempt to crack down on responsible gun owners.
Of the nearly 5,000 people who submitted comments more than 4,500 were opposed to Lamont’s anti-gun plans, compared to about 300 supporters. Many gun owners turned up in person in the hopes of testifying face-to-face with lawmakers as well.
Hyde Harman, who served in the military during the Vietnam War, said Lamont’s plan would restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
“I don’t open carry, but I don’t care if someone else does,” said Harman, adding that state police often take 15 minutes to respond to his rural town of Voluntown along the Rhode Island border in eastern Connecticut.
Since overall crime is down in recent years and both Lamont and then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have closed prisons, Harman questioned why Lamont’s proposals are needed.
“If crime is down, why so many new restrictions?” Harman asked. “How is limiting my ability to purchase more than one gun per month going to stop crime? If the assumption is that I am making straw purchases, which is already illegal, then I am offended and this almost sounds libelous to me.”
Darin Goens, state director of the NRA who has testified for 17 years in 11 states, said it is “splitting hairs” on which state has the toughest guns laws, but Connecticut ranks in the top five with California, New York, and others. He noted that New York and New Jersey have storage laws, but gun crimes have continued. He questioned boosting the age to 21, up from 18, to purchase a gun.
Currently, those 18 and older are allowed to purchase rifles or so-called long guns while handguns are limited to those 21 and older. But Goens said the increased age would not have stopped various shootings around the nation.
“We could pass everything on the slate here today and it would have no impact,” Goens said, adding that criminals “don’t care” and will not follow the laws.
Jake McGuigan, managing director of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said he is concerned about a bill supporting micro-stamping, which is mandated in California.
“The technology is unproven,” McGuigan said. “The technology does not function reliably. … It’s only going to impact law-abiding gun owners purchasing at the retail level. … No manufacturers know how to comply.”
Anti-gun lawmakers also got a reminder that Lamont’s efforts to turn the right to keep and bear arms into a culture war battle hurts every responsible gun owner, including those on the left.
Longtime activist Cornell Lewis said that having the ability to possess weapons are important, including his grandparents who defended themselves years ago in Georgia. He described the scene of a rally for social justice at the state Capitol in which some people had concealed weapons.
“When the Proud Boys showed up, I shook their hands with a contingent of eight people,” Lewis told the committee. “They stood in the driveway of the state Capitol for two hours. If we were not armed, we would have been attacked. … We’ve never had to take our weapons out. … It’s important for people like myself to possess, legally, weapons. … The only reason that we have not been attacked by white supremacists … is they know we’re armed, and they know we’re not joking.”
Beyond the proposed one-gun-a-month law, microstamping, raising the age to purchase firearms and ammunition to 21, and the expansion of the state’s “assault weapons” ban to include those firearms lawfully purchased and possessed before the original ban was enacted, Lamont is calling for a host of other restrictions on legal gun owners, including the establishment of a 10-day waiting period on all gun transfers, increasing the criminal penalty for possessing a “large capacity” magazine, expanding the state’s firearm storage law, and requiring all home-built firearms to be registered with the state.
None of Lamont’s bad ideas would have a substantial effect on violent crime in Connecticut, and the vast majority of them are flagrant infringements on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms, but with the large Democratic majority in both chambers at least some of the governor’s anti-civil rights package has a good chance of being enacted despite the widespread opposition vocalized on Monday. Don’t count gun owners out completely though. Second Amendment groups like the Connecticut Citizens Defense League have been doing an incredible job of mobilizing members, and last year the group was able to help defeat a similar anti-gun package introduced and promoted by Lamont. CCDL members were out in force in Hartford for yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing as well, and they’ll be keeping up the pressure on legislators to reject the governor’s illegitimate gun grab and other infringements on their fundamental rights ahead of the Judiciary Committee’s March 31st deadline to advance these gun control bills, or better yet, reject them outright.