Many of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s gun proposals allow gun owners to keep their current firearms, so long as they register them. However, one recommendation could have some current gun owners turning over their weapons.
The change would come as a result the governor’s efforts to make background checks more comprehensive and broaden the list of convictions that could make someone ineligible to possess a firearm.
Currently the state does not allow convicted felons to possess guns. It also prohibits people convicted of a handful of other misdemeanor crimes from owning firearms. Negligent homicide, low-level assault convictions, inciting riots, and possessing drugs can also prevent one from getting a gun permit.
Malloy would like to see that expanded to include people convicted of drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs during the past five years. It would also include any offense involving a gun as well as any conviction involving the use or threat of force.
As Malloy has proposed them, these changes would be applied retroactively, meaning current gun owners who have been convicted of these crimes in the past would no longer be permitted to own guns.
Michael Lawlor, the governor’s criminal justice adviser, said the change would not be unprecedented. In the past the state has broadened the list of convictions making someone ineligible to own guns to include possession of drugs.
Lawlor said the crimes Malloy would now like to see added to the list demonstrate both irresponsible behavior and a willingness to break the law — neither are qualities the state wants to see in people possessing deadly firearms.
The proposal would not impact “law-abiding gun owners,” Lawlor said, referring a criticism often levied at gun control legislation by gun rights advocates.
Rep. Craig Miner, a Litchfield Republican who chairs the legislative task force on gun control, said he thought anyone involved in the debate will consider this proposal a step in the wrong direction.
Miner said he wasn’t surprised Lawlor was involved with the recommendation but said he was shocked that the governor is backing the legislation. Miner said Lawlor has his own ideas about the individual rights of residents and suggested he was “one of the most dangerous people” in the state.
“To have this singular act in which someone may have shown very bad judgment to be prohibited from owning a firearm? Fascinating,” he said.
However, Sen. Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the gun control task force with Miner, was supportive of the proposal. Looney echoed Lawlor’s concerns about the irresponsible behavior of people who drive under the influence.
“It’s troubling that that person may also have access to a firearm,” he said.
Although Looney didn’t oppose the retroactive nature of Malloy’s proposal, he said it would likely be controversial and may need to be prospective in order to pass the legislature.
State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said he couldn’t currently estimate how many gun owners would have their permits revoked if the law were to pass in its current form.
However, Vance said that if the law is enacted, figuring out which applicable residents had been convicted of the additional crimes would be possible by comparing their list of gun owners with conviction data from the Judicial Branch.
Currently, the list available to the state police to cross check with conviction records includes around 179,000 pistol permits, as well as around 11,000 assault weapons and machine guns that were in the state prior to the passage of legislation prohibiting their sale.
However, the governor also is recommending requiring a permit for owning certain rifles and shotguns. These would mostly be weapons with detachable magazines. Manually operated firearms like pump- or lever-action weapons would not require a permit.
Malloy also is calling for changes to the composition of the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners as well as to the guidelines from which the board grants or denies gun permits. Lawlor said there currently are no set standards to guide the board’s decisions.
“Examiners lacks adequate procedures and expertise to sufficiently assess the risk an individual poses to themselves or others,” Malloy’s proposal said.
According to state statute, the seven board members of the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners are appointed by the governor. Five of the seven are nominated by the Commissioner of Public Safety, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, the Connecticut State Rifle and Revolver Association Inc., and a group called Ye Connecticut Gun Guild Inc. The other two seats are members of the public and at least one member of the board “shall be a lawyer licensed to practice in Connecticut, who shall act as Chairman of the Board during the hearing of appeals.”
Similar to Malloy, Looney and other lawmakers have suggested adding a mental health professional or changing the basic makeup of the board.
The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association also has asked for more certainty regarding the definition of what makes an individual suitable to own a gun. The definition of the word “suitability” as it appears in the state statute is vague, according to the police chiefs.
Click here to read more about the current permitting process for handgun and pistol owners.