State, retailers figuring out gun law intricacies

A week after most of Connecticut's new gun law took effect, local gun shop owners were still unclear about some of their legal obligations.

As soon as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy put his signature on the law on April 4, the sale of more than 100 types of firearms and magazines holding more than 10 bullets became illegal in Connecticut.

Dealers have been seeking direction from the state police Special License and Firearms Unit, which is responsible for overseeing and regulating all retail firearms transactions, on questions such as whether they can deliver to a customer a gun that was purchased and ordered before the ban but hadn't arrived at the store by then.

"How can they give us instructions when they don't know how to implement the law themselves?" asked Ron Rando, owner of Ron's Guns in East Lyme.

Rando said he is getting mixed signals from the firearms unit. A dealer must obtain an authorization number from the unit to allow the ownership transfer of a handgun to proceed.

"The state tells me yes, no, yes and then no again," said Rando. "They don't know what they are doing."

Michael Lawlor, the governor's criminal justice adviser, said the law was written to take into consideration just such a scenario. He said if a gun was purchased prior to taking the law taking effect, it could be lawfully delivered. But the question is what constitutes a complete transaction.

"Does partial payment constitute a complete transaction?" said Lawlor. "...I'm sure there are hundreds of scenarios that we can think of, and the state police are in the process of answering those questions."

Lawlor said the law is clear when it comes to gun shops: They can't sell assault weapons or magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. When a dealer calls for an authorization number, state police will tell the seller whether the sale can proceed, he added.

Rando said the magazine requirement is also posing a problem because he can't find any of the lower-capacity ones, noting they are in strong demand.

"I have hundreds of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, but I can't sell them," said Rando. "I have sold guns without magazines, which makes them useless. Maybe Malloy should have a buyback program to purchase high- capacity magazines. I guess I'll have to write them off on my taxes."

Lawlor said, however, there are several ways that licensed dealers can get rid of high-capacity magazines in their inventory, such as selling them to dealers in other states where they remain legal.

Under the new law, anyone seeking to purchase a gun must now undergo a universal background check. Other provisions of the law will take effect later in the year. On July 1, residents will need a permit to buy long rifles and ammunition.

Owners will have until Jan. 1 to register rifles on the banned list and large-capacity magazines with state police. Procedures and policies will be announced "very soon," Lawlor said.

"At the end of the day, the law is reasonable and easy to implement," Lawlor said.


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