With political momentum from his re-election victory, Gov. Ned Lamont proposed a major package of gun control legislation Monday that includes banning the open carry of guns in public places and eliminating bulk purchasing of handguns.
Although Connecticut has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and is among the safest states, Lamont and supporters said it is not enough.
Lamont is also pushing for mandating the registration of all ghost guns, which are handmade weapons that can be constructed with parts and instructions that are available over the internet or with 3D printers.
“Those ghost guns are meant to kill,” Lamont told reporters in a small, crowded room at the Waterbury police department. “They are meant to be untraceable.”
Lamont has the support of the big-city Democratic mayors who attended the news conference, including Luke Bronin of Hartford, Justin Elicker of New Haven, Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport and Neil O’Leary of Waterbury.
Lamont did not announce that he would seek to eliminate the grandfather provision on assault weapons that are currently owned by many residents across the state. During a gubernatorial debate last year with Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski, Lamont mentioned the idea and talked about it at other times.
“It’s pretty tough to enforce,” Lamont said Monday.
No major gun legislation was passed last year as it was a short legislative session during an election year.
Lamont’s package, though, was only the first in a series related to guns and violence, and more details will be revealed on other proposals in the coming days.
The package includes spending $2.5 million for community violence intervention programs in the next fiscal year, which would be in addition to $2.9 million in the current fiscal year.
While openly carrying firearms in public would be banned, the state would continue its current law that allows gun owners with permits to carry guns that are concealed.
Lamont made his announcement two days after a mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., that left 11 people dead and nine wounded at a ballroom dance studio east of downtown Los Angeles. The shooter, police said, was a 72-year-old man who later shot himself to death when his van was surrounded by Torrance officers not far from the initial shooting.
Another provision backed by Lamont is limiting buyers to purchasing one handgun per month, which would discourage “straw’’ purchases that are often sold to criminals who are not eligible to buy guns themselves. Currently, there are no legal limits on the amount of guns that a person can buy. The plan applies only to handguns and does not include restrictions on hunting rifles or so-called long guns.
“If you’re going to go legally buy a gun, don’t buy dozens at one time,’’ Lamont told reporters. “We’re going to limit the bulk purchases. Something easy. Something enforceable.’’
Asked if bulk purchasing is common in Connecticut, Lamont said, “It seems crazy to me.’’
O’Leary, a former police chief in Waterbury who later became the mayor, said, “It is a problem. Right now, if you have a pistol permit, you can go into any gun store, anywhere in Connecticut, and buy the whole store out in one hour. And then what happens — we’ve seen happen over and over again — not the whole store, but people come in and buy 15 or 20 handguns at a time, and then what happens is hours later, days later, weeks later, someone breaks into their home or someone breaks into their car and guess what? All the guns are gone. Then, a week or two, maybe a month later, we start to recover these guns on the street. These guns are involved in serious felony situations or even murders. That’s the issue.’’
The motive, he said, is often quick profits that place guns in the hands of criminals.
“Straw purchases mean they come in, they buy a dozen guns, for say $500 a gun, and then they sell them on the street for $1,500, $2,000 or $2,500 a gun,’’ O’Leary said.
Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who is among the legislature’s leading authorities on guns, said there would likely be a public hearing in March on all of the gun proposals. Important gun legislation is often debated on the House and Senate floors toward the end of the legislative session, which ends this year on June 7.
While Democrats were enthusiastic about the proposals, House Republican leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford was not. He said various members of his caucus would not support the ideas laid out by Lamont.
“I need an explanation on how limiting the sale to one pistol per month is going to make our state safer‚’’ Candelora told The Courant in an interview. “It comes down to enforcing our existing laws and putting appropriate reforms in place where people are actually held accountable for their actions. Yet, we continue to see proposal after proposal that targets law-abiding citizens.’’
During the gubernatorial and legislative campaigns last year, Republicans repeatedly complained that crime was rising and even out of control. Democrats countered that statistics showed that crime was not as bad as Republicans had portrayed.
“Just enforce what we have,’’ Candelora said. “If you are charged with a gun crime, do not allow them to plead it down to something else. That’s a start. Any gun violation needs to be prosecuted. It can’t be pled out. … It’s gang violence. It’s street violence. Those are the issues we need to be addressing, not limiting people’s purchase to one pistol per month. We have gun laws on the books, and they’re not enforced.’’
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