Lawmakers take aim at new and revived gun bills

As Connecticut lawmakers tackle the 2019 legislative session over the next five months, legislators are pushing an array of firearm bills that highlight issues regarding gun safety, rights, and reforms.

Connecticut has more firearm laws than almost every other state, according to an inventory by Boston University researchers. Many of those laws emerged in response to the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012, and have been touted as some of the nation’s strongest restrictions on guns.

Democrats will likely use their majority in both legislative chambers to help shepherd a number of additional gun-control bills backed by advocates.

On the campaign trail, Gov. Ned Lamont said he would ensure Connecticut remains a leader in combating gun violence through legislation. The governor has also expressed support for banning 3D-printed guns, and so-called ghost guns, which are firearms parts used to make untraceable weapons.

Here are some of the most significant gun bills lawmakers have introduced in the General Assembly in 2019:

Gun safety measures

Among Democratic proposals for further restrictions are measures to ban 3D-printed guns and ghost guns, and require those openly carrying a firearm to show their gun permit to law enforcement officers if requested.

“There’s absolutely no reason why we as a society should have 3D-printed or ghost guns—these are loopholes in the definition of firearms,” said state Sen. Alex Bergstein of Greenwich.

Recent efforts to restrict 3D-printed guns and ghost guns have failed, but in May the legislature passed a bill later signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that bans the sale and ownership of bump stocks, a rapid-fire rifle accessory.

Bergstein, who has introduced iterations of all of those bills, said although lawmakers can pass legislation on a state level, the problem won’t be eliminated until Congress acts.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, together with nine other Republicans, also introduced a measure that would prohibit 3D-printed guns and ghost guns. Lavielle said passing a bill is important because those weapons are unserialized and unregistered, do not receive formal inspection, and cannot be spotted by metal detectors if they are made by 3D printers.

“We wanted to make a statement by not only supporting legislation, but actually introducing one because that means you actually stand by the concept,” Lavielle said.

State Sen. Will Haskell, the 22-year-old Democrat who unseated Republican incumbent Toni Boucher, said local students and high schoolers who volunteered on his campaign told him “common sense gun violence prevention” was their most salient concern.

Among his own proposals regarding ghost guns and firearm permit holders, is another that would limit the number of guns someone can purchase to one per month.

Haskell said if Connecticut passes that legislation, it would be following the lead of California, New Jersey, and Maryland and heeding to important public safety concerns regarding bulk purchases of firearms.

Gun rights measures

Having lost seats in both chambers and their chairmen posts on legislative committees, minority Republicans will have an uphill battle in trying to move a range of legislation aimed at bolstering gun rights.

Those measures include prohibiting the governor or municipalities from restricting possession of firearms or ammunition during a state of emergency, allowing the transfer of an assault weapon or large-capacity magazine between two people who already legally possess either one, and allowing an individual with an out-of-state license or firearms permit to buy ammunition.

State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said his measure to allow the transfer of assault weapons and large capacity magazines “would not be adding any new weapons or magazines into the state, it would not be adding any new owners.”

The Republican lawmaker said Democrats’ attempts at requiring those openly carrying a firearm to show their gun permit to law enforcement officers would not survive court scrutiny. Dubitsky said law enforcement officials cannot stop someone and ask to see their permit without first being reasonably suspicious a crime has been committed.

State Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said a bill he has repeatedly proposed to allow firearms in state parks “stems from my belief that the Second Amendment should apply to you no matter where you are.”

“That should not be limited in a state park. It seems like a poor place to restrict someone from protecting themselves,” he added.

Gun reform measures

Lawmakers are also proposing several bills that would toughen or modify some of the state’s existing firearms laws.

Two of those bills involve tightening Connecticut’s firearm storage law and increasing parental responsibility when an incident occurs from a stored firearm or is easily accessible to a minor.

State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, announced his storage proposal in November with the parents of Ethan Song, a 15-year-old Guilford teenager who accidentally shot and killed himself at a friend’s house last January.

The proposal, called Ethan’s Law, would close a perceived loophole in the state’s current gun storage legislation. The current statute requires only loaded firearms to be properly stored if a minor is likely to gain access to them.

The bill would amend the law to require that all firearms, even those that are unloaded, be stored properly. It would also raise the age of those considered a minor from under the age of 16 to 18.

In another proposal, Haskell and state Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, are pushing a bill that would tax the sale of ammunition at 50 percent.

Ammunition is currently taxed at the standard sales tax rate, which is 6.35 percent. A 50-cartridge box of handgun ammunition for a 9 mm weapon costs about $10 at Cabela’s; this proposal would increase the cost to consumers for that ammunition from $10.63 to $15.00 after taxes.

This story was updated on Jan. 30 at 3:10 p.m.

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