Surprisingly, Gov. Ned Lamont’s call to expand Connecticut’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” wasn’t included in his first round of anti-gun proposals to the state legislature this year, but the Democrat is still taking aim at the rights of law-abiding citizens with a number of proposals that tread all over the Second Amendment. And with Lamont promising more to come, his sought-after prohibition on the possession of modern sporting rifles may still be on the table as he works with his fellow Dems behind the scenes to shore up support.
The legislation that Lamont touted during a press conference on Monday is already bad enough, and includes new limitations on the right to carry as well as the ability to acquire firearms at licensed gun stores.
Aligning carry laws with the expectations of Connecticut residents
Many Connecticut residents are surprised when they learn that openly carrying firearms on the street, in stores and restaurants, and in other public and private locations is legal under state law for individuals who have a permit. Governor Lamont is proposing to generally ban the open carrying of firearms in public, except for a list of enumerated exceptions, and prohibit any carrying of firearms in bars. 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.
Similar laws exist in California, Florida, Illinois, and Washington, DC.
Bans on open carry will probably stand up to legal scrutiny as long as individuals are still able to carry concealed. But with Lamont looking to add on to the list of “sensitive places” where all lawful carry is banned, there’s a strong likelihood that one or more of any new “gun-free zones” will be challenge in court once they’re signed into law.
Preventing the bulk purchasing of handguns to discourage straw purchases
Connecticut state laws currently do not include any limitations regarding the quantity of firearms consumers can purchase within specific periods of time. This makes it easier for criminals to purchase firearms in bulk with the intention of illegally selling them on the underground market, where many guns used in crimes are obtained. To discourage the illegal straw purchasing of guns, Governor Lamont is proposing to limit the number of handguns that an individual can purchase to one per month. This proposal is limited to handguns and does not impact rifles used for hunting or any other long guns.
“Many guns involved in crimes occurring in our communities are purchased illegally on the underground market, and deterring this kind of straw purchasing will have a major impact on lowering crime,” Governor Lamont said. “I think a lot of people are surprised when they learn that you can buy an unlimited number of handguns within a very short period of time.”
The ATF already requires federally licensed firearm retailers to report multiple sales of handguns when a purchaser buys more than one pistol within a five day period, and Lamont’s proposal would have a far bigger impact on law-abiding citizens than firearm traffickers, who could easily recruit multiple straw buyers to get around the one-gun-a-month law.
Straw purchases are also already illegal under both state and federal law, though it’s rare for a defendant to receive the maximum 10-year sentence if they’re convicted. One Connecticut woman who pleaded guilty in federal court last year received just twelve months in federal custody after purchasing almost a dozen firearms for a convicted felon over a three year period. Lamon’t one-gun-a-month law wouldn’t have prevented Leah Boucher from purchasing those guns, but I’m not convinced that the relative slap on the wrist she received is going to do much to dissuade others from engaging in the same sort of activity. Rather than upping the punishment for a straw buy in state statute, however, Lamont has chosen to once again target the law-abiding.
Stopping the illegal flow of “ghost guns”
In 2019, Governor Lamont signed into law legislation banning untraceable “ghost guns” unless the owner obtains and engraves the weapon with a serial number that is registered with the state. That law, however, only applies to those “ghost guns” that are assembled after the legislation went into effect, and grandfathers in all of those that were assembled prior to its enactment.
This year, Governor Lamont is proposing that this law be updated to eliminate this exemption and require all “ghost guns” – including those that were assembled prior to the enactment of this law in 2019 – to be registered with the state. Eliminating this exemption will better enable law enforcement to administer this ban. This proposal is similar to the state law that was enacted in 2013 requiring all large-capacity magazines to be registered with the state, including those obtained prior to its enactment.
I’m convinced that the only reason anti-gunners include grandfather clauses in their legislation is to provide them with an easy way to pass further “reform” by removing the scant protections they provided legal gun owners to begin with. Four years ago Connecticut lawmakers assured gun owners who’d built their own firearms that they wouldn’t have to register them with the state, but that’s a promise that Lamont intends to make them break this session.
Now the question is whether or not his fellow Democrats will go along. It’s a very good possibility that some gun control legislation will get to Lamont’s desk this year given the Democratic majorities in the statehouse, but as Connecticut Citizens Defense League head Holly Sullivan recently told Bearing Arms Cam & Co, there are a number of Democrats who’ve been rather cool to Lamont’s demand to remove the grandfather clause from the state’s “assault weapons” ban in part because they say they made a promise to gun owners that they wouldn’t come for the guns they already own. Does that same vow apply to going after “ghost guns” too, or will Democrats find some flimsy excuse to go back on their four-year-old vows?
That may depend on the response of Connecticut gun owners, who were able to defeat a terrible omnibus gun control package last year much to the governor’s chagrin. The CCDL is vowing to bring thousands of Second Amendment supporters to the state capitol to testify in opposition to Lamont’s latest audacious infringements, and if lawmakers are willing to listen rather than simply toe Lamont’s party line the same could happen this session as well. That’s a very big “if”, of course, but I have no doubt that Connecticut gun owners will do their part to keep their Second Amendment rights intact, even as Lamont spends his political capital trying to destroy them.