Connecticut House approves stripped-down gun control bill
The most sweeping gun control bill since the Sandy Hook school shooting passed the Connecticut House of Representatives on Thursday. But lawmakers dropped some of Gov. Ned Lamont’s key provisions, including a 10-day waiting period for handgun purchases.
“We will target mass shootings by tightening restrictions on assault weapons and large capacity magazines,” said state Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport).
Seven Republicans supported the bill, while five Democrats voted no.
The 93-page bill expands Connecticut's ban on assault weapons to include those that are currently legal because of slight modifications, and older guns “grandfathered” under the current law. It also bans all unregistered “ghost guns” assembled from a kit. Right now, weapons assembled before 2019 do not have to be registered, making it difficult to prosecute the crime.
Penalties for possessing a high-capacity magazine would jump, and there are new restrictions on who could purchase body armor.
More controversial is a new ban on openly carrying a handgun.
“I don't think it does anything to improve on gun violence,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the House Republican leader. “It's a ‘feel good’ provision that's going to have no impact.”
SEVERAL PROVISIONS REMOVED
Lawmakers shot down several key provisions to win passage. Lamont originally proposed limiting handgun purchases to one per month, but legislators increased the number to three. Also gone is a 10-day waiting period to purchase a handgun.
Gun violence victims like Akshat Misra of Norwalk pushed for a waiting period. Misra's father murdered his mother, Divya, in 2021.
“He purchased a gun the same month that my mom told him that he wanted a divorce,” he said. “I think a short waiting period would, at least, have forced him to think a little bit more.”
Gun rights groups argue that Connecticut already has a de-fact waiting period, since it takes at least eight weeks to obtain a pistol permit. But Misra’s father already had a permit when he bought his gun.
Lawmakers also dropped a 21-year-old age limit to buy long guns, including hunting rifles, and a new state license for gun dealers.
ADDED CRIME CRACKDOWN
Conservatives argued that criminals are unlikely to follow the new law.
“We're happy to do everything in our power, as a government, to punish the most law-abiding citizens in our state,” said state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-Newtown), who represents Sandy Hook.
But Republicans were able to add key crime provisions into the legislation, including higher bail for serious firearms offenders and stricter probation rules. Courts in Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hew Haven and Hartford would also add specialized “gun dockets” for repeat offenders.
The bill also expedites the often sluggish pistol permit process. Despite state law, cities like Bridgeport can take more than a year to approve them. Under the bill, after 16 weeks, permit applications would be reviewed by the state instead.
LIMITED REPUBLICAN SUPPORT
Despite all the changes, An Act Addressing Gun Violence only gained seven GOP votes.
“The title [of this bill] is a joke,” said state Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-Chaplin). “This bill does not address gun violence.”
The legislation now heads to the state Senate. Lawmakers adjourn on June 7.