Last week, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced a handful of legislative proposals aimed at curbing gun violence in the state.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Five states currently ban the open-carrying of guns. Connecticut hopes to begin the sixth by the end of this year.
Banning open carry is just one of six state gun reform proposals Gov. Ned Lamont has put forward in the last week during a series of events criss-crossing the state. He unveiled the first half of his proposals in Waterbury last Monday and proposed the second half last Thursday in Hartford.
Lamont hopes to raise the age of purchasing firearms to 21, make the possession of high-capacity magazines a felony on the first offense, limit the purchase of handguns to one per person per month, close loopholes in the state’s anti-straw purchasing laws and also invest $2.5 million in violence prevention groups.
“It’s our responsibility to implement policies that keep our homes and our neighborhoods safe, and we have to take every opportunity to keep our residents protected,” Lamont wrote to the News. “These common sense reforms will protect our neighborhoods and the people who live in them.”
In Connecticut, any person above the age of 18 can purchase a weapon that is not a handgun. To purchase a handgun, a person must be 21 years old and apply for a permit.
To receive a permit in Connecticut, a person must be 21 years old. They can not have been convicted of a crime or a set of 11 specific misdemeanors, have pleaded insanity for a crime within 20 years, be subject to a restraining order, or have had a firearm seized out of fear that they would harm themselves or others. The state has 8 weeks to approve the permit.
Permits are valid for 5 years and people applying for permits must also complete the NRA’s Basic Pistol Course. Any person who has a permit can open or concealed carry a weapon. Under this new proposal, all guns purchased in the state will have to be purchased by someone who is 21 or older.
“You have to be 21 to purchase cigarettes or a handgun in this state,” State Representative Steve Stafstrom said. “Raising the age to buy guns will help reduce the number of suicide and also help address the fact that 18 to 21-year-olds are three times more likely to use a gun to commit a crime.”
On top of raising the age to purchase a gun, open carry would be banned in the state with some exceptions. Concealed carry would still be allowed if a person receives a handgun permit. Similar laws exist in California, Florida, Illinois and Washington, DC.
At the press conference, Lamont argued that open-carry has been used in other states like Wisconsin to intimidate protestors. In Connecticut, where many people do not realize the state has open-carry laws, Lamont said there have been instances where police have responded to reports of people open-carrying, causing a potential crisis situation.
“This change will help prevent the intimidation of residents at certain locations such as protests and polling places, and allow law enforcement to more effectively address community gun violence,” Lamont said.
On top of banning open carry, Lamont also announced in Waterbury that he was asking the state legislature to institute a new limit on handgun purchases per month. Any individual, under this new rule, would be allowed to purchase only one handgun per month.
According to State Senator Gary Winfield, this policy has been proposed since research within the state as well as investigations by police into violent crime have found a pattern of multiple handguns bought in a month and then being used to commit violent crime.
To further fight violent gun crime, Lamont’s proposals include closing loopholes in straw purchasing and assault weapons as well as upping the penalties for possessing high-capacity magazines.
Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz said that the state’s assault weapon ban, which was most recently updated in 2013, has been effective but has loopholes that have allowed manufacturers and purchases to still purchase assault weapons. The proposed updates would include bans on knock-off models that were produced with small changes to the original specifications of the 2013 assault weapon ban.
The current assault weapons ban also allows for some guns that were grandfathered into the original 1994 assault weapons ban. The new proposal would ban the possession and sale of pre-ban weapons.
“If you’ve got a weapon to evade common sense gun restrictions you probably should not have that weapon,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin argued at the press conference.
The proposals will also close a straw purchasing loophole that will end provisions grandfathering “ghost guns” or guns that are purchased by one person and then sold to another without informing the state. “Ghost guns” assembled before 2019 were excluded from this ban.
Finally, Lamont’s proposal will bump up owning a high-capacity magazine, or a magazine that enables a person to discharge more shots from a weapon than normal, from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
Currently, owning a high-c-apacity magazine is a $90 fine for the first offense before an individual is charged with the class D felony. The class D felony can result in a prison sentence from one to five years and a fine up to $5000. Under this proposal, the first charge would immediately be a felony.
“Across the state we’ve been seeing crime scenes with 30-40 rounds from high capacity magazines so this will help put a dent in this issue,” Chief State Attorney Patrick Griffin said.
As well as updating the state’s gun laws, Lamont’s proposal includes an additional $2.5 million in funding to community violence intervention programs. This program was originally launched in the last budget cycle but according to Connecticut Against Gun Violence Executive Director Jeremy Stein, much of the funding from last cycle was used to set up the initiative.
“This is the most important part of the proposals made since this is investing into programs that are on the ground and have been proven to decrease gun violence,” Stein told the News. “This investment will be key in reducing violent gun crime in the state.”
Republicans in the state have criticized the bill saying that it will not decrease violent crime and is instead inhibiting the rights of legal gun owners to procure weapons.
House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora argued that Democrats are pitching a “familiar path to an ‘everybody problem’ by offering proposals that will have law-abiding gun owners carry most of the freight.”
“Lamont’s proposal doesn’t actually do anything to prevent violent crime,” State Representative Craig Fishbein told the News. “Gun ownership is already pretty restrictive in the state so why will these proposals actually cause any sort of change?”
Lamont will formally propose these changes to the state legislature in his budget message next week.
The State Legislature sits in Hartford from February to May in even numbered years and from January to June in odd-numbered years.