HARTFORD, Conn. — Flanked by trauma room doctors and prosecutors, Gov. Ned Lamont unveiled a set of legislative proposals Thursday aimed at tightening gun laws passed nearly a decade ago in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook.
The announcement follows a press conference earlier this week in which Lamont said curbing gun violence and seeking to prevent mass shootings is a priority in this legislative session.
Meanwhile, community leaders told FOX61 they would like to see lawmakers invest in community groups already working to prevent gun violence.
“We’re here because we want to avoid that next tragedy,” Lamont said Thursday.
There have been nearly 40 mass shootings with four or more victims so far in January 2023 across America. On Monday, Lamont said he plans to invest in community intervention programs, ban open carry of firearms, crack down on ghost guns, and limit gun purchases to one a month.
Thursday, he unveiled plans to require someone to be 21 years old to purchase a weapon in Connecticut, make possession of unregistered high-capacity weapons a Class D Felony—opposed to a $90 fine— and require weapons made before 1994 to be registered with the state.
“They go out and buy assault weapons pre-1994 and say, I’m going to get them in some southern state, and I can bring them here to Connecticut and I can sell them legally. Well, not any longer,” Lamont said.
“We’re not worried about the guns that are stored in people’s homes under lock and key but we do want to stop the continued proliferation of weapons in our state,” said LT Governor Susan Bysiewicz.
Lamont’s proposals also seek to regulate currently unregulated Jerry-rigged guns.
“On the street high-capacity magazines are referred to as ladders. When they stick out of a semi-automatic handgun they look like a ladder,” said Chief State’s Attorney Pat Griffin.
"We’re seeing bodies torn apart because of high-capacity magazines combined with Glock switches," Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin added.
People can still have permits to shoot long guns but wouldn’t be able to purchase them in Connecticut and there would be another one-time registration period to allow people to register weapons already in their possession.
A survivor of the shooting at Sandy Hook, then second-grader, Jackie Hagerty, said she believes second amendment rights and stricter gun laws can co-exist in Connecticut.
“Anyone who has experienced anything this traumatic agrees, this cannot continue to happen,” she said.
Meanwhile, community leaders in Bridgeport and Hartford told FOX61 they applaud Lamont's efforts to combat violence but would like to see specific solutions in the form of investments in community organizations working daily to prevent gun violence.
“We have organizations not just in Hartford but in Bridgeport, in Waterbury, in the urban centers that are experiencing gun violence at a ridiculous rate and there are people dying every day that never get the attention of a Sandy Hook, but it happens more consistently,” said Rev. A.J. Johnson of Urban Hope Refuge Church.
On Monday, Lamont said he intends to invest in community programs. Rev. Johnson, who pastors in Hartford where 37 people were killed with guns last year, hopes to see Lamont and lawmakers set aside $20 million in the state budget this year to support evidence-based groups on the ground doing prevention work.
“We need more money per year to make sure that these organizations are sustainable,” he said.
Dennis Broadnax is a Street Safe member who rushes to the aid and comfort of Bridgeport families in the horrifying moments after a community member is lost to gun violence. He’s pleased Lamont is unveiling a set of legislative proposals aimed at preventing gun deaths.
“It’s not going to be one-take solution. It’s not going to be one way—it’s going to be a variety of different ways,” Broadnax said. “People are losing their lives at a rapid pace and anything that we can do to help save people.”
Republican members in the General Assembly reacted to Lamont’s proposals Thursday.
“The simple fact of the matter is that any firearm in the hands of a person not permitted to possess a firearm is already unlawful activity,” said Rep. Craig Fishbein, a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. “The rampant gun crimes in our cities are not perpetrated by lawful gun owners. They are committed by people who illegally possess—a charge more often dismissed than prosecuted.”
In March, there will be public hearings here at the capitol on each of these proposals so the public can weigh in.
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