A package of bills that would mandate heavy restrictions on gun ownership and public carry rights, as well as create harsher criminal penalties for gun crimes, is currently making its way through the Connecticut legislature. If adopted, it would immediately make the state one of the most restrictive in the country when it comes to firearm use.
The legislation — which has passed the house and now goes to the state senate — would ban the open carry of firearms in public and place greater restrictions on high-capacity magazines and so-called assault weapons. The state would also mandate that all firearms kept in one’s home be subject to safe-storage requirements.
One provision of the bill also mandates harsher pre-trial and bail standards for those who are accused of committing firearms offenses. In the state’s capital, Hartford, statistics show nearly 40 percent of those involved in both fatal and non-fatal shootings were on pre-trial release. Lax bail laws in the city have allowed many repeat offenders and violent criminals to return to the streets easily.
The legislation is aimed at putting hardened criminals behind bars for longer by establishing a new judicial docket for firearms offenses in the state’s largest cities, so individuals can be processed more quickly.
The governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont, developed the legislation alongside many of the state’s mayors, who say illegal gun ownership and repeat offenders are a plague on their communities. The mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin, said passage of the bill would “increase accountability” for violent criminals.
“These are common sense changes focused specifically on those individuals most responsible for the gun violence that destroys lives in our communities,” Mr. Bronin said in a statement.
Democrats are saying their state is leading the way for gun control advocates — in sharp contrast to the red states that are moving to loosen restrictions on firearm ownership.
“As there continues to be mass shooting after mass shooting in our nation, we look at the other states that are running away from gun restrictions,” a state representative, Steve Stafstrom, said after the package of legislation sailed through the lower chamber last week. “In Connecticut, we’re not doing that. We’re going to continue to lead.”
The legislation passed by a margin of 96–51 with bipartisan support. In all, seven Republicans voted for the measure, five Democrats opposed, and four Democrats were absent.
The National Rifle Association has said this “drastic gun control legislation has a bit of everything.
“Obviously this will only impact law-abiding gun owners, as criminals don’t line up at gun stores to submit to gun rationing schemes,” the group wrote in a statement.
By state law, the legislature must adjourn for the year by midnight on June 7. Mr. Lamont has already signaled that the legislation will have no issues getting through the state senate and he will be able to sign it before the deadline.
The bills come just more than 10 years after the shooting attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School at Newtown, which left dozens of innocent children dead.
The laws, if adopted, would almost certainly be challenged in court. The first article of the Connecticut state constitution has a guarantee of firearms ownership that is even more explicit than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state,” the article states.
In last year’s landmark decision in New York State Pistol and Rifle Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court said that many gun restrictions are unconstitutional. Following the decision, many blue states have attempted to rewrite their stringent gun laws, and now Connecticut is following suit.