Gov. Lamont: Close 'loopholes' in assault weapons ban
Just days after back-to-back mass shootings in California, Gov. Ned Lamont proposed widening Connecticut’s assault weapons ban to close several “loopholes.” Thursday’s announcement is Lamont’s second major gun control proposal this week.
"A lot of gun peddlers out there are trying to sell these things and trying to work around our system every day,” Lamont said at a news conference at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.
After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, the state banned AR-15s and high-capacity magazines. But one survivor said it's not enough.
"Every piece of legislation has loopholes,” said Jackie Haggerty, who was in second grade during the shooting. “But if our policies have worked to decrease gun violence, let's continue to revise them."
Lamont’s proposal would widen the assault weapons ban to include firearms that are currently legal because of slight modifications.
Detective Brinn Warenda with Connecticut State Police showed reporters two guns that closely resemble an AR-15 but aren’t considered rifles under current law because they are not shoulder-mounted.
"It adds what's called a 'buffer tube' on the back, and it's not intended to be shouldered,” Warenda said.
Lamont also wants to ban sales of all assault weapons. Those manufactured before 1994 are exempt from the current ban, but gun rights groups said the market for such guns is extremely small because they cost thousands of dollars – and require extensive paperwork.
"You're going to have a permit; that takes several months to get,” said Holly Sullivan, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. “And your background check process."
Lamont is also calling for stiffer penalties on high-capacity magazines. Right now, illegal possession only carries a $90 fine. The governor’s proposal would make the first offense a Class D felony.
"Ninety dollars? If you pass a school bus, it's a $350 fine,” said state Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport), co-chair of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
Prosecutors said exempting older magazines has been problematic for years.
"Effectively, that statute is enforceable as prosecutors within the state of Connecticut. And the reason is simple; we cannot determine with any degree of accuracy when a high-capacity magazine was purchased or obtained,” said Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin.
Finally, Lamont wants to raise the age to buy all firearms to 21 - 18-year-olds were behind the mass killings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. But some Republicans think the change could unfairly target young hunters.
"Merely to say that somebody is 18 and therefore – no matter their training, their experience with firearms – that they are automatically barred from obtaining a firearm?" said state Rep. Craig Fishbein (R-Wallingford), who is challenging Connecticut’s existing assault weapons ban in court.
On Monday, Lamont proposed banning “open carry” and cracking down on untraceable “ghost guns.”
The public will get a chance to weigh in on all these ideas. The Judiciary Committee expects to hold a public hearing in March.