After a year when 22 New Haveners were shot to death, State Sen. Martin Looney Thursday put forward a made-in-New Haven proposal to set up a Connecticut gun offender registry to keep track of crooks with itchy fingers.
The New Haven proposal is inspired in part by a similar Baltimore law that, in its first year, succeeded in seeing only three of 200 jail-sprung registrants get rearrested.
Accompanied by New Haven Police Detective Richard Pelletier and other city constituents, Looney presented his proposal to the state legislature’s Public Safety Committee.
His proposal would have the state public safety commissioner keep a registry of people convicted of gun crimes, with a database (available to law enforcement, but not the general public) containing information on offenders from the past four years; have registrant check in annually with local cops and report changes of address; and make it a crime to fail to register.
The concept is similar to the state’s sex offender registry, except for the fact that it restricts information to law enforcement, Looney told the committee Thursday.
He said that the idea was suggested to him by New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon.
Looney agreed to put forth the legislation, which didn’t receive any opposition publicly Thursday, because of the 22 homicides with a firearm in New Haven last year, almost double the amount from 2009.
There were also 116 non-fatal shootings in New Haven last year.
“Keep in mind this is a city of only 123,000 residents. The total of 138 deadly and non-deadly shootings in New Haven last year was around 1 per 900 New Haven residents,” said Looney, the State Senate majority leader.
Viewed this way it means New Haven has more than two and half times as many shootings per capita than Boston, which has a population almost five times larger than New Haven’s.
Currently there are five gun offender registries in cities throughout the country and many require registration for three or four year periods of time, unlike sex offender registries which require at least 10 years of registration.
Looney said this 2010 recidivism report published by the Office of Policy and Management found that those convicted of gun crimes are more likely to be rearrested. It’s something Detective Pelletier sees all too often.
Pelletier told the committee he’s been in law enforcement for 23 years and most of the time when he interviews subjects arrested with firearms they tell him they have the gun to protect themselves.
He urged the committee to pass the legislation and give law enforcement one more tool to help stop gun violence.
West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci, who testified on a number of gun bills Thursday, told the committee that he supports the creation of a gun offender registry as long as it’s not subject to Freedom of Information laws. He said if public were able to access the information the number of burglaries may increase.
He said he supports the measure because annually 30,000 are killed by firearms.
Looney anticipated there would be opposition from sportsmen and legal gun owners so he made it clear that the registry would only contain the names of those convicted of gun crimes.
He said gun offender registries are fairly new, but some have seen some early successes. In Baltimore only 3 of the more than 200 registrants who were out of jail had been rearrested for handgun violations and only a few others had been arrested for various misdemeanors.