HARTFORD, CT — Gun control advocates spent as much time Thursday talking about a law that didn’t pass as they did about the one that did during a bill-signing ceremony with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Malloy was at Bulkeley High School in Hartford to sign a bill banning bump stocks and other rate-of-fire enhancements in Connecticut.
What never came up for a vote — even though it was passed by the Judiciary Committee — was a bill regulating so-called “ghost guns.”
Ghost guns are partially completed weapons that do not meet the federal definition of a firearm and can be sold to anyone without background checks. They have no serial number and can be a path to gun ownership for felons and people with mental illness, or those who have been convicted of domestic violence.
On bump stocks, Malloy said: “It’s good that we were able to pass this law here, and I thank lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for voting to send this bill to my desk, but it’s a shame that Connecticut now joins only a handful of other states that have also banned these devices.”
Bump stocks allow semiautomatic rifles to fire at a rate closer to that of machine guns. The bill also bans trigger cranks and other rate-of-fire enhancements.
But it was the legislation that got away — ghost guns — that was on many people’s minds at Bulkeley on Thursday.
“Hopefully ghost gun legislation will be the next to pass,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “We have more work to do.”
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, who spoke about the dangers of ghost guns at a press conference in New Haven four months ago, said he also wants to make passage of ghost gun regulation a priority in the next General Assembly session.
At that February press conference, Tong said he went online himself to check out a ghost gun website.
“It scared the hell out of me,” Tong said. “We need to stay ahead of the game and be proactive on this issue.”
Tong 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 in February.
Tong and others at Thursday’s press conference said staunch NRA opposition is one of the main reasons why ghost gun legislation didn’t make it through this year.
“The NRA is everywhere,” Tong said. He added, however, “We can beat them.”
Tong, who isn’t running for re-election to his House seat, did remind the group that gun control advocates should savor the passage of the bump stock ban.
“By approving this legislation, we honored the intent of the gun laws we approved five years ago, which state that automatic rifles have no place in our state,” Tong said. “While the steps we have taken alone are not enough to end the national epidemic of gun violence, they are moves in the right direction.”
Tong’s five year reference was in relation to a series of stricter gun laws Connecticut passed shortly after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012, during which 26 students and educators were killed.
Many members of the Newtown Action Alliance, an organization formed after the Sandy Hook shooting to lobby for tougher gun control laws, attended Thursday’s bill signing.
Similar bump stock bans have already been approved in Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Hawaii, and Florida.
More than 20 states introduced legislation seeking to ban the devices in the aftermath of the October 1, 2017, mass shooting in Nevada — the deadliest in modern U.S. history in which 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured by a gunman who utilized bump stocks.
While President Donald Trump and some Congressional leaders initially signaled a willingness to ban the devices throughout the country in the days immediately following the mass shooting, they have since reversed course and have not taken action.
“Here we are again — individual states are leading on efforts to stop gun violence while leaders in Congress sit on their hands and do nothing,” Malloy said. “This should be the law throughout the entire country. There is no reason why anyone needs to own a device that can fire 90 bullets every 10 seconds but for the mass killing of people.”
Malloy said if it wasn’t for the recent spate of school shootings, Thursday’s bill signing ceremony might have been at a concert venue scene similar to the one where the carnage happened in Las Vegas.
Instead he deliberately chose to have it at Bulkeley.
One of those speaking at the ceremony was Zahir Akbar, a 16-year-old junior at Bulkeley.
Akbar said he participated in the April 20 walkout in which hundreds of thousands of students across the country walked out of school to protest the lack of Congressional action on gun control. The walkout came one month after a mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.
“Students across the country have risen up,” Akbar said. “Our voices are now part of the national conversation on gun control.”
“Even I, a simple student, have power,” Akbar added. “All of us as students have power.”