Who Holds the Power in the CT Gun Safety Debate?

Connecticut doesn’t have time to talk about guns.

Not that there hasn’t been a lot to talk about in the current legislative session. Governor Ned Lamont alone submitted 52 pages on the topic of improving gun safety. But the 2022 session, after all, only lasts 12 weeks.

“Unfortunately, some really good legislation fell victim to timing,” said state Rep. Steve Staffrom, D-Bridgeport.

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of Connecticut’s darkest day, when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ten years seems like enough time to make progress, but since adapting some of the nation’s toughest gun laws in 2013, a trend has emerged in Connecticut. Legislation is proposed, usually by Democrats, only to be opposed by fierce opposition across the aisle and vocal lobbyists. The clock flows reliably.

Consider what has already been left on the cutting room floor under the golden dome in Hartford:

These 52 pages of Lamont have been hacked into three. Cleared initiatives include mandatory trigger locks; a license for arms dealers; permission for the police to ask people openly carrying firearms to show permits; expanding an existing ban on assault weapons; and curb illegal “ghost weapons”.

Legislation limiting the purchase, sale or transfer of handguns to one per month. The goal was to prevent guns from being passed on to people who are not licensed to own handguns.

The debate over a firearms task force has been tortured. It originally contained language that would have viewed gun violence as a public health crisis, but suburban Republicans attempted to include other items under the umbrella as well, such as knives and baseball bats. Thus, the Louisville Slugger could have become a public health crisis. The proposal failed.

Some Republican arguments also failed to advance, including a strong proposal that would allow innocent targets of criminals to use deadly force in self-defense.

No one seems to disagree that the rising violence in Connecticut needs to be addressed. It’s already become a firm plank in the campaign platform of Bob Stefanowski, who is seeking revenge against Lamont for the gubernatorial seat. The pandemic has fueled violence across the country, and Connecticut has not been spared. The number of reported homicides in the state rose from 77 in 2019 to 107 in 2020, the year COVID arrived. In a recent five-day period, shootings in eight Connecticut municipalities left seven dead and two injured.

Gun safety advocates seem resigned to taking what they can get. CT Against Gun Violence Executive Director Jeremy Stein has pinned his hopes on forming a state commission to oversee community-based anti-gun violence programs in our cities. There is also the possibility of forming a working group to explore the feasibility of creating a state licensing system for dealers.

Progress related to gun safety can still emerge from this session. But lobbyists have clarified one thing after a decade: the people who hold the guns still hold the power.

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