Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
Rep. William Tong and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp along with other legislators (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

NEW HAVEN, CT —Flanked by New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and members of the New Haven legislative delegation, the co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee said he will propose legislation to ban bump stocks and so-called ghost guns.

At a press conference at the Church of the Rock in New Haven, Rep. William Tong, D- Stamford, said Connecticut has the “second strongest gun laws in the nation,” but tougher legislation is still needed.

Bump stocks, which Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has also proposed banning, are after-market products that can be attached to a semiautomatic gun to make it essentially a fully automatic gun, which is illegal in Connecticut.

In the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history, Stephen Paddock had outfitted at least 12 of his rifles with bump stocks, which, attached to semi-automatic weapons, give them rapid-fire, continuous shooting capabilities. Killed were 58 and another 546 were injured.

Ghost guns are partially completed weapons that do not meet the federal definition of a firearm and can be sold without background checks to anyone.

Tong said with a little effort, a purchaser can complete the assembly. The guns have no serial number and, Tong said, can be a path to gun ownership for felons and people with mental illnesses or those who have been convicted of domestic violence.

“A growing number of people are making guns in their own house,” Tong said. “We are making it too easy for people who are unlawfully unable to buy guns to go online and buy guns.”

Tong said he went online himself to check out a ghost gun website, and “It scared the hell out of me. We need to stay ahead of the game and be proactive on this issue.”

He said the purpose of the legislation he will propose “is to close up the loopholes, clean up the language” to address the issue of ghost guns.

Tong and others at the press conference said that what many gun owners are doing is going to websites online and getting three-quarters of the materials needed to make a gun sent to their home.

“Then they just go to Home Depot and get a drill and you have a gun,” Tong said.

Tong’s initiative was applauded by Harp who described the proliferation of illegal guns as a “public health menace.”

“Going forward this year’s legislative session provides an ideal opportunity to outlaw bump stocks and ghost guns,” Harp said. She termed the illegal gun crisis “an urgent call for more action and common sense gun legislation.”

Tong’s initiative comes a few weeks after Malloy said he, too will propose legislation to ban the purchase and sale of “rate of fire enhancements,” including bump stocks, binary trigger systems, and trigger cranks.

After the deadly Las Vegas shooting, lawmakers looked to the federal government to ban bump stocks, arguing that they had no appropriate purpose for sport or civilian defense, only destruction.

At first, support for a ban was sweeping, bipartisan, and bolstered by the National Rifle Association — but soon the NRA turned against it.

Both of Connecticut’s U.S. Senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, came out in favor of banning bump stocks immediately after the Las Vegas shooting.

Massachusetts and New Jersey — two states led by Republican governors — as well as the cities of Denver and Columbia, South Carolina, have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices, which were attached to a half-dozen of the long guns found in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter.

A little over a dozen other states are also considering bans on bump stocks.

“Legislation would be better if passed nationally,” Malloy said when announcing his new gun legislation initiatives. “But the NRA has too many senators in its pocket.”

Under Malloy’s proposal, possession, and sale of rate-of-fire enhancements, including bump stocks, binary trigger systems and trigger cranks will result in a Class D felony. Permit holders who possess rate-of-fire enhancements prior to July 1, 2020, will receive an infraction and be fined $90 for their first offense, and shall be charged with a Class D felony for any subsequent offense.

Malloy’s proposed legislation defines a “rate of fire enhancement” as any device, component, part, combination of parts, attachment, or accessory that uses energy from the recoil of the firearm to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated operation of the trigger, including but not limited to bump stocks.

Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson described the new gun initiatives as “feel good” legislation.

“Instead of politicians having the fortitude to impose harsher penalties for violent criminals and possession of a firearm by prohibited persons, society gets more feel good legislation,” Wilson said.

He said a recent report published by the Office of Legislative Research “demonstrates that too many felony gun charges are simply reduced or dismissed altogether, and therein lies the real problem.”

Fewer than half the charges in many of the cases led to convictions for a wide variety of gun related charges, according to the report.

“Our lawmakers are simply not sending the proper message to criminals. Instead, they are passing more laws that will accomplish nothing of substance,” Wilson said. “The so-called ghost guns in today’s legislative proposal are not even considered to fall into the firearms category by the federal government.”

Connecticut did toughen up its gun laws in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting massacre.

The 2013 changes to Connecticut gun laws, which banned assault weapons and large capacity magazines, were controversial. But they were supported on a bipartisan basis.