HARTFORD, CT — Supporters and opponents of two bills that would change what types of gun accessories or firearm parts are available in Connecticut made their case Friday during a Judiciary Committee public hearing.
Hundreds signed up to testify Friday.
More than 350 people had submitted testimony online and many more packed a hearing room, requiring the committee to find an overflow room to comply with the fire code. The hearing started at 10 a.m. and by 6:35 p.m. there were still 57 more people left to testify.
The hearing comes one day before the March for Lives event, and is on the same day as a NRA fundraiser at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on 16 bills Friday, but many who attended the hearing were only interested in two.
One that would ban bump stocks and one that would ban so-called ghost guns.
Bump stocks and other rapid enhancement devices became a target of gun control advocates following the Las Vegas shooting where a gunman opened fire at an outdoor concert and killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others.
“Ghost guns” are homemade guns or parts that can be made into a gun.
Newtown Action Alliance Chairwoman Po Murray said in her written testimony that “Ghost guns are untraceable homemade guns that circumvent the strong gun laws passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.”
Murray said she is joined by 2,100 Connecticut citizens who fully support the two bills to immediately ban dangerous accessories and untraceable homemade guns.
The NRA argued in a newsletter that the ghost gun bill would end the centuries old practice of manufacturing firearms for personal use by imposing requirements that far exceed those in federal law.
Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, supported the NRA’s claim that the bill language is so broad that nearly any solid, raw materials such as a block of steel could also be considered a “firearm.”
He pressed Groton Police Chief L.J. Fusaro about what percent of material an individual should be able to possess. Fusaro said that wasn’t for him to decide.
Asked about the difference in lethality between a knife or a bat, Fusaro said “it’s much easier” to do harm to someone with “a firearm.”
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, asked Fusaro if someone who has no legal ability to possess a firearm and is able to obtain 80 percent of a firearm online and have it shipped to their house via FedEx would it compound the gun trafficking problem?
“It could undoubtedly put more guns out on the street,” Fusaro said.
As far as bump stocks are concerned, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Florida have passed a ban and Delaware and Maryland legislatures recently approved similar measures that are expected to be signed into law.
William Curlew, a gun owner who was represented himself, testified that the Las Vegas shooter could have killed many more people if he had taken aim, instead of just firing into the crowd. He said he doesn’t know if the Las Vegas shooter used a bump stock, but he said it makes guns less accurate and is more of a novelty item.
However, that doesn’t mean the state should ban them.
“I don’t want needs tests,” Curlew said. “That’s not how constitutional rights work.”
Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury, said “so far I haven’t heard a good reason about why they exist.”
Curlew said he can’t think of any reason for someone to have one, but he doesn’t want to see them banned.
Jonathan Hardy, a pistol permit specialist and executive at the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, called the measures to ban bump stock devices ridiculous. He called the measure another attempt to “stop a device rather than a behavior.”
As for ghost gun legislation, it’s “Another piece of legislation that targets the people who already follow the law,” Hardy said. He also took issue with the way that gun control groups are using children to protest.
“The problem is how much i see kids being used in repeating stuff that isn’t true,” Hardy added.
Kate Martin who is from Moms Demand Action a division of Everytown for Gun Safety waited nine hours to testify Friday.
She said in the absence of action from Congress Connecticut needs to take action to ban bump stocks and ghost guns.
“The laws that we enact as a state say something about its citizens,” Martin said.
Martin, a mother of four, said she was testifying to protect her children and her community.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was out of state Friday, submitted a written statement in support of the two bills.
“We cannot sit back while Congress continues to capitulate to the demands of the NRA over the demands of the American people,” Malloy added. “Let us do what Congress cannot and will not do – let us work together to close dangerous loopholes and ban bump stocks in the State of Connecticut.”
The Judiciary Committee has until April 4 to send the bills to the House.