'Other' firearms, similar to banned assault rifles, selling briskly in Connecticut
A firearm similar to the AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles that were banned in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook school shooting has been selling briskly in the state.
Too long to be a handgun, and too short be a long gun, it isn't restricted by some of the laws that pertain to those types of firearms.
It's classified as an "Other" on the state's firearms sale and transfer form, and for those who have a permit and pass a background check, it's legal to purchase and possess, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Connecticut State Police.
Several manufacturers are producing "Other" firearms, also called Connecticut Legal Others, in various calibers. They have a shorter barrel than the banned semi-automatic assault rifles, and are designed so that they can't be — or shouldn't be — fired from the shoulder. They don't have a shoulder stock.
"The way these firearms are designed to be shot is with an arm brace," said Sgt. Alessandro Giannone of the state police Special Licensing and Firearms Unit. "You're supposed to hold the butt of the gun along your forearm and tie a strap along your forearm and they're meant to be fired in that fashion."
"Others" can be purchased for $500 to $1,500.
Some of the features on banned semi-automatics are allowed on Others, including flash suppressors. They have a forward vertical grip, which is another feature not allowed on longer rifles.
Ron's Guns in East Lyme has been carrying several models of the "Other" since July, and has been selling about one a week, according to employee John Drabik. Buyers say they're fun to shoot and good for home defense.
Drabik says they're also wondering, "How long are they going to be on the market before they take them away?"
One of the state's largest gun retailers, Hoffman's ("Guns for the Good Guys") in Newington, advertises itself as Connecticut's exclusive distributor for "Others" made by Stag Arms. Stag, based in New Britain, announced Nov. 18 that it is moving to Cheyenne, Wyo., which it said is more supportive of the Second Amendment and "incredibly hospitable" to business.
A representative of Stag Arms did not return a phone message left this past week, and other gun enthusiasts hesitated to talk about the "Other" firearms for fear that lawmakers would immediately seek to ban them.
"These 'Other' firearms are not a loophole," said Bob Margolis, general manager of the Hartford Gun Club and owner of the LifeSafe firearms training and sales company. "They're an innovation brought about by restriction."
Public Act 13-3
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. He also killed himself and his mother.
Public Act 13-3, passed by the Connecticut General Assembly as an emergency gun safety measure four months after the Sandy Hook school shooting, added numerous firearms to the state's assault weapons ban and required anyone who legally possessed one of the banned weapons to register them with the state.
Sgt. Giannone said he heard about "Others" in Connecticut within months of the assault weapons ban, and that state police have no way of tracking how many have been sold.
"There are always going to be people who read the law and try to figure out how they are going to be compliable," he said when asked if Public Act 13-3 was flawed. "Most of these people are inherently trying to avoid getting in trouble."
"The firearms manufacturers are a business at the end of the day, and they're looking to make money," said Detective Brianna Maurice, also from the state police firearms unit. "If they can continue selling firearms that are within the purview of the law, they're going to do that."
Aimee Thunberg, communications director for Sandy Hook Promise, said in an email that the group, whose mission is to prevent gun violence, would not comment for this story because the topic was not part of the group's "policy platform."
State Senate President Martin Looney, a key proponent of the 2013 legislation, did not return a phone message left at his home.
Some consider the AR-15-style weapons, often produced in black, more menacing looking than other weapons.
"A semiautomatic firearm, regardless of what it looks like, is going to fire the same round regardless if it's made of wood or plastic," Sgt. Giannone said. "It's going to function in the same manner. It's important to know that when looking at a gun, no firearm is more or less lethal than the rest. It's just more or less how it functions."
Despite the "automatic" in their title, semi-automatic weapons, which are available as handguns, long guns and now "Others," require the shooter to pull the trigger every time a round is fired. They often are mistaken with fully automatic weapons, or machine guns, which are capable of firing continuously and have been highly regulated since 1934.
The "Other" firearms come with a 10-round magazine, but are capable of holding larger-capacity magazines. Public Act 13-3 banned magazines, or ammunition feeders, capable of holding more than 10 bullets in Connecticut.
Gun enthusiasts say another attractive feature of the AR-15-style weapons, including "Others," is that they are built of independent components. The frame, or lower receiver, is the only part of AR-15-style and "Other" firearms that requires a serial number and must be purchased through a licensed firearm dealer. The rest of the parts can easily — and legally — be purchased, including on the internet.
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