HARTFORD, CT — The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and a handful of Democratic state lawmakers are trying again to pass a bill that would allow police officers to ask gun owners for their permit if they are openly carrying their weapon.
A court decision clarified that gun owners only have to carry their permit. They don’t have to show it.
The decision put police chiefs in a tough spot. Police officers will receive calls about a person carrying a gun and they will have to respond to the location, but once they find the person carrying the weapon they can ask to see a permit to find out if the person is carrying the gun legally. However, that person doesn’t have to produce a permit for the officer.
Farmington Police Chief Paul Melanson said Tuesday that they then have to call the person back who reported the person with the gun and tell them they were unable to figure out if the person was legally carrying a firearm.
Melanson said what if that person carrying a firearm is outside a daycare? What do I tell the parents who have to come pick up their kids?
“We’re just asking for the ability to protect the public the best way we know how,” Melanson said.
Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said the legislation is straightforward and not complicated. He said it makes all the sense that if you’re openly carrying, a police officer should be able to ask you to present your permit.
It’s not a gun bill and it’s not about gun owners, “it’s about police safety,” Tong said.
Similar legislation passed the Public Safety and Security Committee last year, but was never called for a vote in the House.
Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, said if you’re a lawful gun owner and you want to carry your gun and you don’t want to be asked for your permit there’s a simple solution “conceal the carry.”
“If the firearm is hidden and it’s not in plain and open sight then nobody is going to stop you and ask for your permit,” Stafstrom said.
Second amendment groups like the Connecticut Citizens Defense League say they are opposing the legislation again this year because it’s about a constitutionally protected right.
“While most people would willingly show their pistol permit to a law enforcement officer asking to see it, it is another thing altogether for that same officer to simply demand it in the absence of any wrongdoing,” CCDL President Scott Wilson said.
He said lawful gun owners understand and respect law enforcement, “but there is a reason why citizens have constitutional protections, and there is a reason why law enforcement has limits on their authority.”
He said people “minding their own business who happen to carry a firearm deserve the same protection under the law. They should not be made second class citizens and denied constitutional rights afforded every other citizen.”
But Tong maintained that the bill is not about gun owners and does not infringe on their rights.
Tong’s message to gun owners: “This bill is not about you … If you’re carrying your firearm and you show your permit, it’s no problem.”
He said he hasn’t given any thought to legislation that would go further and end Connecticut’s open carry law.
The public hearing on the legislation will be on March 15.