What Happened at the Recent Connecticut Gun Hearing?

Posted on: June 10, 2019

In the longest Judiciary Committee meeting, dubbed the "gun hearing", this year, lasting for more than eight hours, the committee debated seven firearm bills that would affect gun owners rights, either limiting those rights or expanding them.  The gun hearing took place on March 11, 2019, with dozens of advocates on both sides appearing.  

Currently, Connecticut is the third toughest state on firearm possession and use, with the fifth lowest firearm death rate.  However, this has not stopped anti-gun activists and state Congress from enacting even stricter firearm laws.  Many incidents in the media have spurred for these stricter laws due to safety concerns and to allow police officers greater control when interacting with suspects and to keep a potentially dangerous situation from escalating.

The following outlines the major incidents that influenced the current bills and a review of the bills that the Judiciary Committee discussed during the gun hearing on March 11th, 2019.

The Push for stricter laws

There are several examples of gun crimes in Connecticut that spurred the necessity for these bills and the subsequent gun hearing.  In 2013, two men were walking on the boardwalk in West Haven, Connecticut with firearms clearly displayed in hip holsters.  When stopped by a police officer, they were asked to produce their firearms carry permit.  One of the men obliged the officer, however, the other man did not state he is protected by Connecticut law.  A judge agreed with the man and stated that state law only permits officers to ask for a carry permit when there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.  In this case, the two men were walking on a public sidewalk with no criminal act in progress or suspected to occur.

In 2016, a man was inside a Subway restaurant in Bridgeport with his firearm visible when an officer asked to view his permit.  The man refused, stating his second amendment right was being violated since no criminal act was suspected or in progress.  State Senator Rob Sampson, when asked to comment on the incident, stated, "I don't know why it was allowed to escalate…This person was minding their own business, like riding done the road or mowing your lawn…Why would law enforcement need to show up for that purpose?" 

The most recent widely publicized incident occurred on January 31, 2018, in Guilford, Connecticut, Ethan Song, fifteen years old, accidentally shot himself in the head which resulted in his death.  The pistol, owned by his friend's father, was the weapon used in the accidental shooting.  The .357 magnum handgun was stored in the master bedroom closet, unloaded.  The owner of the gun was not charged as a result of the accident as the gun was stored according to state law standards.  The parents and community of Ethan Song worked with lawmakers to propose "Ethan's Law" which changes the way firearms are stored and was discussed in detail at the gun hearing on March 11.

The Gun hearing: The Proposed seven

Senate Bill 60

This bill allows police officers to demand a Connecticut carry permit if the officer suspects that the individual is carrying a handgun.  This differs from the current standard to request a permit based on "reasonable suspicion" that a crime is occurring supported by outside convincing facts. 
After the gun hearing, this bill received the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and will continue on in the process.

House Bill 7218

This bill ensures that firearms are safely stored away from minors for use in the event self-defense is necessary. Those that support the bill believe that all minors should have access restricted to firearms at all times, especially in self-defense circumstances when the minor is not properly trained and may end up shooting a family member.  Opponents believe that a "one size fits all" law does not allow for the possibility that minors can be trained to properly operate handguns for home safety reasons.  Gun storage and safety should be up to the individual firearm owner, not the government.
After the gun hearing, this bill received the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and will continue on in the process.

House Bill 7219

This is the "ghost gun" law, that seeks to impose regulations that exceed federal requirements when constructing a firearm at home.  The bill uses broad language, causing some opponents to believe that virtually any part that can be used to construct a gun can be categorized as a firearm and owners of guns without serial numbers can be charged with a felony.  Serial numbers would be required on all constructed firearms, which many believe to be too expensive due to the equipment needed to accomplish that.  Hobbyist gun makers are the population that is affected the most by this bill.
After the gun hearing, this bill received the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and will continue on in the process.

House Bill 7223
This is another storage bill that requires all handguns to be stored in a safe when being transported in a vehicle.  It would require vehicles to be fitted with locking safes that conform to the regulations.
This bill received the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and will continue on in the process.

Senate Bill 940
This bill would allow Connecticut handgun permit holders to carry their registered handgun with them when visiting state parks and forests for the purposes of self-defense.  Supporters of this bill believe that handgun restricted zones only punish permit holders, while criminals are more likely to possess a firearm without even possessing a permit, to begin with.
After the gun hearing, this bill did not receive the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and failed.

House Bill 5227
The idea behind this bill was to make firearm laws uniform across the state, making it illegal for municipalities to enact their own county-specific gun laws.  Supporters state this would allow for all the residents of Connecticut to have equal Second Amendment rights despite where they live in the state.
After the gun hearing, this bill did not receive the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and failed.

House 5870
This last bill was introduced to allow those individuals that own firearms that are currently illegal but were purchased before the specific firearm was made illegal and were thus grandfathered in, to be transferred to another that owns a similar type of firearm.  This allows for a certain population to trade grandfathered in firearms and magazines amongst themselves.
After the gun hearing, this bill did not receive the votes to survive the Judiciary Committee and failed.

The Judiciary Committee voted on each bill to either fail at this committee or proceed on the results stated above.  Based on the gun hearing results, Connecticut continues to pursue its long line of gun control laws to keep its place as one of the strictest gun law states in the country.

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