Tackling gun violence should be high priority
Gov. Ned Lamont deserves credit for pushing the General Assembly to continue making prevention of gun violence a priority. His administration is proposing policies intended to both reduce the likelihood of mass shootings and address the scourge of gang-related bloodshed in the state’s urban centers.
Deserving of staunch support are proposals to close loopholes in the state’s assault weapons ban; rework and strengthen penalties for violating the prohibition on large-capacity magazines; increase the age for purchasing all firearms to 21; and reduce suicides and domestic violence.
Lamont wants to end grandfathering rules that allow gun dealers in other states to target Connecticut for the sale of AR-style weapons that predate the state’s first assault-weapons ban in 1994. The governor’s proposal calls for requiring owners to register these older weapons, while barring future purchases and sales.
By tightening legislative language, the governor seeks to counter efforts by manufacturers to adjust gun designs to evade the stringent assault-weapons ban Connecticut adopted in 2013, following the massacre of students and educators at Sandy Hook.
The legislature should approve these loophole-closing changes. The goal is to strengthen Connecticut’s assault-weapons ban and further limit the availability of these weapons that are designed to kill many people quickly.
Concerning the ban on large-capacity magazines, which can allow an attacker to keep firing longer without reloading, Lamont rightly argues for strengthening penalties and improving enforcement.
The post-Sandy Hook legislation allowed owners of such magazines to retain them, but they had to be registered. Those caught with unregistered large-capacity magazines face only an infraction and small fine for a first offense. The governor wants to send the message that the failure to have registered these pre-2013 magazines, or purchasing any in violation of the ban, are serious offenses that should be treated as Class D felonies. The legislature should support this sensible adjustment.
As for raising the purchase age, it is already 21 for handguns. Lamont’s proposal would simply raise the legal age for purchasing long guns, now 18, to 21. This makes sense, given the tragic experiences of disturbed young people buying the guns they used in mass shootings.
Individuals under 21 could still use firearms for hunting and other sporting activities.
Lamont’s proposals target “ghost guns,” meaning guns that lack serial numbers, typically assembled by an individual. In 2019, Lamont signed a law requiring all guns to have an engraved and registered serial number, even those self-ensembled. The law exempted pre-2019 ghost guns from this requirement. The governor now calls for requiring all these guns, including the ones predating 2019, to be engraved and registered. This would help law enforcement.
Another set of sensible proposals seek to reduce suicide, accidents and domestic violence, while presenting no significant burdens to law-abiding gun owners. Lamont is asking the legislature to require a 10-day waiting period before a firearm purchase, a cooling off time for those who may be making a purchase in anger or despondency. Proposed new design standards are aimed at preventing accidental gun discharges. And the governor wants all gun sales to come with trigger locks. Lawmakers should support these measures as well.
More controversial is the governor’s call to repeal the state’s open-carry law.
Private citizens with permits in Connecticut can openly carry and display guns in public. While we can only speculate why anyone wants to walk around displaying his gun in public — we will leave that question to psychological analysts — the administration would be hard pressed to make the case that this rare I-will-show-you-mine behavior is contributing to gun violence. Picking a fight with Second Amendment advocates on this issue is a mistake.
Lamont would limit handgun purchases to once a month. He contends multiple purchases can feed the underground market by way of illegal resales, contributing to urban gun violence. Speculation is not sufficient. The administration must prove a link between multiple in-state sales and crime if it wants lawmakers to restrict legal gun purchases. More likely, illegal imports from gun-lenient states feed criminal syndicates in Connecticut.
While the details of improving gun-control policies will, and should, be debated, Lamont has set the right tone by continuing to make gun-violence prevention a priority. On that count, our editorial board agrees.