Published March 01. 2014 4:00AM
More than 200 people who tried to register their assault-style guns or declare ownership of high-capacity magazines but missed the Jan. 1 deadline are getting letters from the state police that tells them what they should do with the weapons and magazines that are now illegal under state law.
The letters are not a warning but rather a notification that their application was rejected, according to state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance.
"It just gives them their options," he said. "Right now we're just trying to help everyone abide by the law. There's nothing more than that."
The letter offers options on what to do: Render the weapon or magazine permanently inoperable, sell it to a licensed gun dealer, remove it from the state or make arrangements to hand it over to local or state police.
The letters, signed by Lt. Eric Cooke, commander of the special licensing and firearms unit, are being sent out even as the task of sifting through the thousands of applications and declarations continues.
The state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection received about 50,000 applications for certificates for the rifles and 38,000 for ammunition magazine declarations, some claiming as many as 100 magazines.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced earlier this month that the state would accept applications received after the deadline if the department determined the owners attempted to submit the paperwork before Jan. 1 and that the application was not received "due to circumstances beyond the applicant's control."
As a result, the state agreed to recognize 160 assault weapon certificate applications and 398 more large-capacity magazines declarations signed and notarized on or before Jan. 1 and postmarked by Jan. 4.
Michael Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said there were about 800 applications postmarked after Jan. 1. More than 200 did not meet the criteria and are being sent letters. He said although it has been discussed in some circles, he does not see a groundswell of support for any other measures to further grant amnesty.
The notices are likely to make some gun owners uncomfortable, said Scott Wilson of New London, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.
The state is now aware that these 200 people illegally possess assault-style weapons or high-capacity magazines, but Wilson said the state would be misguided to use this information to charge them with a Class D felony, which is allowed under the law that was passed in April 2013.
The law was passed in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that left 20 children and six adults dead.
The new law bans certain weapons identified by the state as assault weapons and bars the sale or purchase of magazines with the capacity to hold 10 or more rounds.
Wilson points out that the fact that people tried to register their guns or magazines shows their law-abiding nature. Even without the information provided to police in the applications, he said the state has the ability to cross-reference anyone who legally purchased the now-illegal firearms from a federally licensed dealer.
"With the resources the state has for law enforcement, they are better served ratcheting down on real crime rather than going after law-abiding citizens," Wilson said.
Lawlor said the overall goal of the legislation was to prevent certain guns from being sold and thus have fewer in circulation over time.
"Certainly they have an obligation to get rid of their guns," Lawlor said.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League is among the groups appealing the constitutionality of the state gun law. Wilson said in addition to those who missed the deadline, there are those who simply refused to register their guns because they think the law was unconstitutional.
"As long as they're aware of the risks, that's up to them," he said.