On 30-year assault weapon law anniversary, Lamont pushes for wider ban

Gov. Lamont was surrounded by lawmakers who helped pass Connecticut’s original assault weapons law in 1993. At the time, it was one of the first in the nation.

John Craven

Jun 1, 2023, 10:02 PM

Updated 361 days ago


Gov. Ned Lamont used the upcoming 30-year anniversary of Connecticut’s groundbreaking assault weapons ban to push for even wider restrictions.
“We are a safer state because of these laws and it’s clearly demonstrable,” Lamont said at a Thursday morning news conference. “We have to build on that.”
Lamont was surrounded by lawmakers who helped pass Connecticut’s original assault weapons law in 1993. At the time, it was one of the first in the nation.
Even then, the issue ignited fierce emotions.
“I think some of my best all-time death threats came shortly after this,” said former Democratic state Rep. Mike Lawlor, who now teaches criminal justice at the University of New Haven. “Still have the recording of some of them actually.”
The next year, Congress passed a national assault weapons ban, but it expired 10 years later.
Following the Sandy Hook shooting, Connecticut expanded its ban to cover more types of weapons and high-capacity magazines. But now, with mass shootings happening almost daily, Lamont said it's time to update the law again.
“The world changes, and we've got to maintain our gun safety laws, so they're current to what's going on right now,” he said.
Lamont’s wide-ranging bill closes loopholes, including prohibiting rifles that perform like assault weapons but are legal because of slight modifications to their design.
It also bans unregistered “ghost guns” assembled from a kit. Police report a big spike in them. In February, Stamford police seized three illegal guns in four days, including a “ghost gun.”
“Even though it was not manufactured traditionally, it's still very capable and very deadly,” said Stamford Police Sgt. Sean Scanlan.
The Connecticut House of Representatives already approved Lamont’s gun control package – after stripping out key elements including a 10-day waiting period and an age restriction for buying long guns. The state Senate could give it final approval as early as Friday.
“The votes will be there,” said Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven). “One of the highest priority bills that is on the Senate calendar right now from the House is the gun bill for this session.”
Can the legislation survive a legal challenge, like the 1993 law did?
“It stood a very strong court case, so I'm feeling very optimistic,” said state Rep. Bob Godfrey (D-Danbury), who helped craft the original ban.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has changed dramatically in three decades. Following a major ruling last summer that sharply limits where guns can be banned, several groups are now challenging Connecticut’s existing assault weapons ban.
Just an hour after Lamont’s news conference, a federal judge refused to issue a restraining order in one of those cases, allowing the state’s ban to stay in place as the case proceeds.

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