Rep. Rob Sampson photo
Line outside state police headquarters in Middletown (Rep. Rob Sampson photo)

Several Republican lawmakers called Monday for extending the Tuesday deadline to register assault weapons in response to long lines of gun owners waiting at state police locations to comply with new firearm regulations.

The long lines have been caused by a deadline set in April when the state adopted new gun control restrictions after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The statute expanded the number of guns prohibited under Connecticut’s assault weapons ban. It gave gun owners who bought the banned guns before the change until Jan. 1 to register to keep the weapons.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday that about 25,000 Connecticut residents had registered assault weapons as of Dec. 25.

And with the deadline drawing near, gun owners who waited to register are facing long lines as they seek to file the appropriate paperwork with the state police.

On Monday, Republican lawmakers like Sen. Toni Boucher, Sen. Joe Markley, and Rep. Rob Sampson were calling on Malloy to extend the deadline to register the weapons.

But that can’t happen without a special session of the legislature, so gun owners who failed to register are out of luck once the clock strikes midnight.

“The department is going to make every effort to accommodate people who try to register firearms in advance of the deadline,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “The requirement has been in place for six months, and the deadline is set by statute. Changing it would require action by legislature, which is a fact that I can only assume Markley and Sampson know.”

Charles Ambrosecchia of Redding said he did his best to complete the forms for registering his firearms and his ammunition, but there has been widespread confusion about what is needed to register.

In a phone interview Monday, Ambrosecchia, a trained firearm instructor, said there was nothing on the assault weapon form that says where it should be mailed. He said he reached out to the state police, but didn’t have any luck getting his questions answered.

He was too busy with work to travel to a state police headquarters in Middletown to spend the day standing in line so he sent the forms by Express Mail to the best address he could find and prayed it would get there in time.

“I hope it satisfies their vague and inaccurate requirements,” Ambrosecchia said.

“The main sources of confusion are specifically what needs to be registered and which form to fill out to declare or register certain firearms,” Sampson and Markley wrote in this letter to Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford. “With added time, some clarity can be provided to gun owners trying desperately to remain law-abiding.”

Boucher said a constituent contacted the state police to find out if their registration form was received and was unable to get an answer. When Boucher’s office asked they were told: “We are currently receiving thousands of applications daily. It is not feasible to hand search for an individual application to ensure receipt. Once processed, a form letter will be sent for a Large Capacity Magazine Declaration and/or a Certificate will be sent for an Assault Weapon.”

Boucher said the explanation creates more questions because it’s unclear if the gun owner will be considered to be in compliance based on their ability to complete the form.

“What if a notary did not sign the application, but stamped it? Will the application meet the standards,” Boucher asked.

Ambrosecchia, one of Boucher’s constituents, said he is just going to hope everything he submitted is accurate and live with the consequences.

While he doesn’t believe the registration of his weapons will make the state any safer, Ambrosecchia said he’s invested too much money in them to risk having them confiscated.

There are some gun owners in Connecticut who have decided to rebel by not registering their weapons in protest.

But the law includes serious penalties for failure to register the equipment. Charges for possessing one of the banned guns after the deadline could range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony. Connecticut residents convicted of felonies are ineligible to own firearms.

Despite the long lines, Malloy said he believed the changes have gone well.

“This has been a very successful program. It’s been executed relatively well . . . I want to be very clear, I’m sorry for the lines but registration has been relatively uneven,” he said Monday. “. . . Some people put things off till the last minute.”

Malloy compared waiting until this week to register weapons to shopping at the last minute before Christmas. He said he put himself in that camp.

“I’m one of those guys who did a little shopping on [December] 24th. I had to face long lines as well, but I understood that if I went home without any packages I was in a lot bigger trouble. If you go home without being in that line to register your gun, you’re probably going to be in some amount of trouble,” he said.