Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s gun violence task force heard testimony Friday from a state trooper and gun enthusiast with a “more is better” philosophy on firearms.
The committees and task forces charged with making recommendations in response to the Newtown murders have heard from a number of law enforcement officials over the past few months. Some have been hesitant to give their personal opinion on firearm regulations.
However, Trooper First Class Joseph Delehanty of the Firearms Training Unit said he was an avid gun collector. He showed the commission a wide variety of weapons, including assault rifles, guns with attached grenade launchers, and revolvers that can fire shotgun shells.
Answering questions from the panel, Delehanty said many of the firearms were used for home protection. He pushed back against suggestions that the availability of certain types of ammunition should be limited to firing ranges.
“This is America—more is better and I can’t put it any other way. I mean, I collect guns,” he said.
Delehanty told the commission that he preferred to collect weapons manufactured prior to the 1990s, like lever-action rifles, muzzleloaders, and double-barreled shotguns. He said he didn’t want to tell the group how many weapons he owned.
“My wife will say ‘Do you need all those?’ and I say ‘Yes.’” he said. “… Some people collect cars. Jay Leno collects cars. Does he ever drive any? I don’t know. It’s a collection.”
Delehanty said many of the weapons he showed the group had also sporting applications. Some of the ammunition is designed not to ruin the pelts of animals shot by hunters, he said.
“There are uses for all of these guns,” he said, motioning to the firearms on the desk in front of him. “Deer hunting for this one, or boar hunting.”
Yale psychiatry Professor Ezra Griffith admitted to being ignorant of the subject and asked why anyone would want a 30-round ammunition magazine or the application for other gun-related equipment.
“Any cocktail party I go to and we’re talking about this stuff we want to know, why does a sportsman need ‘X?’ That comes up a hundred times during the cocktail party and most of us who are in this can’t answer it. We can’t conceptualize what people do with this,” Griffith said.
Delehanty said people like to buy weapons after watching action movies.
“Have you seen ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ yet?” he asked. Griffith answered that he had not.
“After that, you might want to go out and buy a gun that looks like this,” he said, referring to a military-style weapon.
“When ‘Dirty Harry’ came out in the 70s, we all had to go buy a .44 magnum because that was ‘the most powerful gun in the world,’” he said, impersonating Clint Eastwood. “You had to have one.”
Delehanty said people often buy weapons that appear in movies and video games.
“It’s like advertising. You’re paying to go see an advertisement,” he said.
Griffith asked whether the he was suggesting that the media was to blame for the fascination some people have with firearms.
“I mean, where does it come from, this fantasy?” he asked.
Delehanty said he had no idea.
“I don’t know when it became OK in our households to let our children play those video games,” he said.
Later in the day, Dr. Brendan Campbell of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center testified before the group regarding the types of gun trauma injuries his hospital sees among children. He said if members forgot most of his presentation, he wanted to drive home two points which were supported by statistics.
“One, is that guns are more dangerous than protective,” he said, adding that gun violence deaths are preventable.
The commission continued to hear testimony Friday on firearms in spite of the governor’s own recommendations, which he released last week after expressing frustration with the pace of legislative action on the subject.
Though Malloy charged the commission with making careful, deliberated recommendations, its chairman, Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, said he didn’t blame the governor from acting before his group had a chance to report.
“I certainly didn’t feel put off or taken aback in anyway. I think it’s his job and the job of the state legislature to make their recommendations as well,” he said. “I wouldn’t ask anyone to sit on their hand and wait for us. This is a critical issue in the state of Connecticut.”
Jackson said he expects the group will maintain its timeline and make recommendations by March 15 so they can be included in emergency certified legislation. He said it was impossible to say how the group’s recommendations might compare to Malloy’s proposals, which include a prohibition of the sale of some military-style weapons and high capacity magazines.
“We have the governor’s recommendations and we understand the governor’s recommendations. But what we’re doing here today is getting baseline information and what the current state of law it,” he said.