When the mayors of Connecticut’s three largest cities get together to talk about violence, they usually do it all by themselves. However, in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting they’re finding more people are talking and listening to their suggestions.
Earlier this week, the big city mayors got together with their colleagues from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and came up with 13 proposals to reduce gun violence. The vote of the 70 municipal leaders on all 13 of the proposals, including requiring permits for long gun and rifle purchases, was nearly unanimous.
“I think the goal here is to make Connecticut better — not perfect — but better,” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said Wednesday at a Capitol press conference.
He said said “spree shooting” is the least common form of gun death in the United States.
“Far more common is what we see in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven every year,” DeStefano said referring to shootings with small caliber handguns.
In New Haven over the last three years there’s been 75 homicides, most all of them gun related and largely in minority communities. The victims are typically African-American males, DeStefano said.
“None of them involved assault rifles and rarely involve large cartridge clips,” DeStefano said.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t support limiting large capacity magazines or permits for rifles. He said prohibitions and changing definitions of assault rifles and restrictions on ammunition makes sense to him.
“Frankly, this issue of responsible gun ownership is an issue whose time has come,” DeStefano said.
He said the measures proposed will help reduce urban violence and close some of the loopholes in the secondary gun market where most sales are made by private sellers without background checks.
“We have too many guns in America. We have too many guns in Connecticut and we have too many guns in Bridgeport,” Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said.
He said all the mayors he has spoken to support the Second Amendment, but “nobody goes hunting with a machine gun.”
“No hunter uses more than one or two bullets at a time when they’re hunting. Otherwise, they’re a really bad shot,” Finch said. “If they miss the deer is long gone. The bird is out of range. Hunters do not need repeating weapons.”
Finch said they were there to be reasonable and to push for good legislation, “much of which is long overdue.” He encouraged hunters and sportsmen to join them.
“Come out. It’s safe. We are not the enemy,” Finch said. “We’re your friends and we are here to keep everybody safe.”
But Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, isn’t going to take Finch up on that offer anytime soon.
“They didn’t address the problem,” Crook said after the press conference. “The problem is mental health and school security.”
“Guns are not the issue. That was just the tool that was used,” Crook said. He said the gunman in the Newtown shooting just happened to use an “AR-15 with a large magazine.”
He called the gunman a “criminal” for taking his mother’s guns. According to police, the gunman shot his mother in the head before heading to the school Dec. 14 and claiming the lives of 20 children and six educators. The guns used in the school were purchased by the gunman’s mother.
“Why penalize a legitimate citizen? A law-abiding guy who goes through all these hoops and jumps to get a pistol permit,” Crook said.
All retailers in Connecticut do background checks for handgun purchases.
Asked if there was anything in the package he could support, Crook responded by saying there were some reasonable suggestions, but “registration of long guns, never going to happen.”
He said registration doesn’t accomplish anything. Besides, the state is facing a $1 billion deficit and registering more guns means the state will need more staff to do that.
What about limiting high capacity magazines?
“What about target shooters,” Crook said. “If you ban magazines these guys are going to do what we did in Vietnam: tape two or three of them together.”
The list of 13 proposals municipal leaders released Wednesday includes expanding the definition of an assault weapon, requiring permits for long guns, expanding the list of offenses that would prohibit an individual from obtaining a firearm permit, requiring a permit for the purchase of ammunition, prohibiting individuals from purchasing more than one weapon within a 30-day period, requiring trigger locks with every purchase, and outlawing the possession and purchase of body armor.