Lamont's new anti-violence plan includes more police, stricter gun control laws
Gov. Ned Lamont Monday rolled out a sweeping plan to address gun violence in Connecticut, including hundreds of new police officers and expanded gun tracing technology - and it also calls for even stricter gun laws.
The move comes after a spike in crime that has become a major campaign issue leading into the 2022 elections.
Lamont wants to spend $19 million creating real-time crime centers and hiring new police officers.
"I'm calling on our mayors, I'm calling on the first selectmen, with the resources you've got, I want to see 500 more cops on the street by the end of this year," Lamont said.
The governor also wants to expand forensics testing and a mobile rapid DNA lab that can that can get results back within 30 minutes.
Criminal justice groups blasted Lamont's plan to hire additional cops.
In a statement, Claudine Fox with the ACLU of Connecticut said, "Violence can't be solved with violence. Prisons and policing are violent systems that beget more harm, especially for Black & Latinx youth. If you're calling for more prisons and policing, you're advocating for harm. Prisons and policing aren't and can't be mental health counselors, local neighborhood schools, jobs, affordable housing, food, education, or any of the things adults or youth need to survive. The systems of policing and prisons come at the expense of the things we need to be safe. It's not only that every dollar spent on them could be spent instead on critical programs, it's also that every dollar spent on them is counterproductive to the things that create community health. We need to invest in community health, not more policing."
Lamont's plan also includes new gun control laws, and opponents are already lining up. He wants all gun stores to be licensed, to expand the state's assault weapons ban to guns made before 1993, and make it easier for police to ask for an open carry permit.
Connecticut Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella said police need that authority.
"We have folks carrying around these guns, intimidating free speech, and we have folks using those guns inappropriately," he said.
Gov. Lamont also wants even tougher gun storage laws - the reason Ethan Song never made it to college.
"As we watched Ethan's body being lowered into the ground, our hearts were broken but our spirits turned to our mission," said Song's father, Mike.
Two leading Republicans, state Reps. Craig Fishbein and Greg Howard, issued a statement saying, "The governor has chosen an aged election-year tactic of attacking law-abiding gun owners in an effort to distract from his administration's utter failure to address criminal justice policies."
State Senate Republican leader Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) added: "We appreciate that Governor Lamont is finally starting to acknowledge that people are screaming for help and we hope to work together to achieve a safer Connecticut. But it is disappointing that nowhere in the Governor's release was there any mention of 'opportunity.' This is about so much more than guns, although that is where the Governor wants the focus."
In a news release, Gov. Lamont's office outlined the proposals:
Establish a Gun Tracing Task Force to identify the source of illegal guns
• Background: Connecticut needs a coordinated statewide effort to identify the source of illegal guns.
• Proposal: Reestablish a Connecticut Gun Tracing Task Force to work with local and federal partners to stop the flow of illegal guns into our state. The task force will take advantage of the interstate compact to share eTrace reports that the administration entered into last year. This will be supported by $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Create a statewide community violence intervention program
• Background: Connecticut has strong local violence intervention programs. These programs provide a crucial service to the community: they reduce violence by working with law enforcement, hospitals, and the people most at risk of perpetrating and experiencing violence. However, they are not present in every community, they face limited resources, and there is little statewide coordination and evaluation.
• Proposal: Direct the Connecticut Department of Public Health's Office of Injury Prevention to create a statewide community violence intervention program. The program will fund and support individual programs, and it will evaluate programs to create a statewide strategy for the most effective violence intervention approaches in the future. This will be supported by $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Stop the flow of illegal "ghost guns"
• Background: Untraceable "ghost guns" without serial numbers have been showing up with rapidly increasing frequency in crime in Connecticut. These guns are typically sold as partially-assembled kits and can be easily finished into operable weapons. "Ghost guns" are banned in Connecticut, but those that were manufactured prior to 2019 were grandfathered in, making the law nearly impossible to enforce.
• Proposal: Require registration of pre-2019 "ghost guns," much like registration was required for large-capacity magazines in 2013.
Ensure gun stores take their obligations seriously
• Background: While most Connecticut gun dealers take their obligations under state law seriously, a few do not scrupulously follow Connecticut's laws. The lack of state licensing for gun dealers makes it difficult for the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to enforce those laws, and lax security or inventory tracking can lead to diversion of guns into the wrong hands.
• Proposal: Create a state license for all gun dealers in Connecticut, so the state can provide oversight and guidance to gun dealers as they comply with state law. Existing businesses would receive a license without needing to pay the application fee.
Modify carry laws
• Background: Gun owners are allowed to open and concealed carry essentially everywhere in Connecticut, even in many sensitive locations like polling places and protests. Police officers cannot ask those openly brandishing weapons, even on the streets of our center cities, for their permit unless they suspect they've committed a crime.
• Proposal: Make it easier for our law enforcement officers to request the gun permits of those openly carrying firearms, and ban the carrying of firearms in polling places, public buildings, public transit, and at demonstrations (such as marches, rallies, vigils, sit-ins, protests, etc.)
Close loopholes in assault weapons laws
• Background #1: Gun manufacturers have ramped up production of assault-like weapons that evade assault weapons bans in Connecticut and other states. Those guns are functionally identical to the banned guns.
• Proposal #1: Expand the assault weapons ban to include guns with so-called "arm braces" and open a registration period for those who own these weapons.
• Background #2: Guns manufactured before 1993 are exempt from the assault weapons ban and can be sold and transferred, including those from out-of-state into Connecticut. Out-of-state gun dealers collect older assault weapons from other parts of the country and ship them into Connecticut.
• Proposal #2: Expand the assault weapons ban to include pre-1993 guns and open a registration period for those who own these weapons.
Make domestic violence convictions an automatic disqualifier for holding a carry permit
• Background: Anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence is automatically disqualified from owning a gun federally, but not from holding a state permit, and the definitions differ. This forces the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to hold a time-consuming suitability hearing in each case.
• Proposal: Automatically disqualify anyone who has been convicted of a family violence crime from holding a state gun permit.
Strengthen laws on safe storage of firearms
• Background: Accidental deaths and illegal weapons frequently originate from improperly stored firearms. While Ethan's Law – which Governor Lamont signed in 2019 – banned the negligent storage of a firearm, the law should provide more guidance to gun owners on what quantifies as safe storage. One example is that trigger locks are only currently required for handguns.
• Proposal: Require all firearms, not just pistols and revolvers, to be sold with a trigger lock.
In addition to these statutory changes, Governor Lamont's proposed budget adjustments make a landmark $64 million investment in public safety in Connecticut, addressing current needs and laying a foundation for lasting impacts. The governor's public safety plan will make communities safer, attain swifter criminal investigation and clearing of court cases, and help victims recover from crime. These investments will make a meaningful and tangible difference in public safety – law enforcement can count on additional resources and partnership to address crime challenges, services for crime victims will be protected when they are needed the most, criminal investigations will speed up with the aid of state-of-the-art forensic sciences, and the court system will receive assistance clearing cases that have accumulated due to the pandemic.
$19 million to prevent and reduce repeat crime
• Addressing violent crime and motor vehicle theft by providing police departments funding to put more cops on the street to focus on these issues.
• Creating municipal real-time crime centers to use data and technology to prevent or respond in real-time more precisely to high-risk factors driving violence.
• Launching a statewide gun buyback program to get more firearms off the street.
• Training officers in highway interdiction techniques and deploying those officers strategically to stem the flow of guns into the state.
$4 million to speed up criminal investigations using forensic science
• Deploying mobile crime labs directly to crime scenes and hot spots for rapid forensic-science analysis.
• Advancing Connecticut's high-tech forensic-science capabilities — including DNA, ballistics, drug, and computer-crime technology — to process investigations with greater speed and precision.
$23 million to clear accumulated court cases
• Funding will help clear cases that have accumulated during the pandemic in criminal court, evictions and foreclosures, child support, family and support matters, infractions, and family services.
• Clearing these backlogs will allow the system to respond more swiftly and effectively to crime challenges.
$18 million to help crime victims recover from crime
• Filling an urgent gap left by disappearing federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding for victim services, including crisis intervention, safety planning, behavioral health counseling, and access to legal services.
• Providing shelter, housing, and transitional services for domestic violence victims facing heightened safety risks during the pandemic.