By Carly Maher
Gun legislature remains a hot debate in Connecticut. In March, three gun legislation bills were heard by the General Assembly, one of which is a brand new bill proposed by the Judiciary Committee. The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission voiced their advocacy for such legislation, including 2013 Public Act No. 13-3 and revision 13-220, in its recently released “Final Report” concerning the events of December 14, 2012. Meanwhile, gun rights groups are staying educated and making their presence known. The Connecticut Citizen’s Defense League (the state’s largest grass-roots gun rights organization) regularly opposes gun legislation believed to be in violation of amendment rights.
Presently, assault weapons and large capacity magazine holding firearms must be registered with the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Owners of guns that meet these certain definitions were required to register their firearms with the DESPP by January 1, 2014; but the deadline for registration may be extended for those previously noncompliant with or unaware of the law. The CCDL continues to exhibit heavy opposition.
“We simply do not support the forced registration of firearms, particularly firearms that have been unfairly re-branded as so-called ‘assault weapons,’” says CCDL president, Scott Wilson.
According to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, almost 100,000 registration forms have been submitted containing registration for one or more guns meeting the criteria. The number of unregistered firearms in the state of Connecticut is unknown.
The tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary school has forced lawmakers and advocates to reevaluate the risks associated with civilian gun ownership. However, laws designed to promote safety are often interpreted as “unconstitutional” and subject to hostility. On page 14 of the SHAC’s final report Governor Malloy says, “I believe that responsible, law-abiding citizens of our state have a right to bear arms, but that right cannot come at the expense of public safety. We need to develop a common sense way to regulate access to guns.”
The CCDL says Connecticut is attempting to make bearing arms difficult in order to discourage people from having guns. On the CCDL’s blog, Wilson says, “Governor Malloy and certain anti-gun legislators are simply trying to make gun ownership as cumbersome as possible,” arguing that these laws “only punish law-abiding citizens.” Law-abiding gun owners will go through with the new processes if they have interest in holding onto their weapons, regardless of whether or not they agree with the new rules.
Although some senators are still calling for an all-out ban on large capacity magazines and assault weapons (regardless of responsible ownership and lawful procurement), there are other proposals related to gun safety that have incited approval on both sides. For example, some pending legislation involves a tax break for Connecticut citizens who purchase gun safes for their firearms. “This provides a financial incentive to store firearms in a safe, and also assists those who may not be financially able to afford a safe,” says the CCDL website. Their gun legislation blog outlines the organization’s specific opinions about pending acts. An exact definition for Governor Malloy’s “common sense” gun regulations remains under construction, and the SHAC’s answer to the question of public safety has yet to be fully realized. Their “Final Report” document is likely to heavily affect future legislation in the state despite gun rights organizations’ objections. Certainly, gun laws are capable of changing Connecticut in a big way—the specific nature and the magnitude of which remains to be seen.