HARTFORD, CT — In order to make it a fully functioning firearm someone would need to machine the partially complete receiver that an anti-gun advocate brought with him Monday to the Legislative Office Building.
Jeremy Stein, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said what he was holding in his hand is not regulated.
“This is intended to be used as a firearm,” Stein said. And that’s what should make it illegal.
He said the proposed legislation to ban what are called “ghost guns” doesn’t impact an individual’s ability to build their own firearm, as long as they go through the same background checks, training, or permit as someone purchasing a firearm.
He said right now the parts someone may order to build their own gun are not regulated by state or federal law.
“So under this bill I could buy all the 80-percent lower receivers I want and use them as paperweights?” Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, asked.
Stein said the legislation specifically addresses “intent,” and if there’s no intent to use something as a firearm then this legislation would not apply.
At one point in the hearing, Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, asked everyone in the room if they had gun parts on them, in any form, to go inform the Capitol Police.
There’s also language in the bill that would require anyone who made a gun with raw materials in their home to obtain a serial number for that gun:
“No individual shall complete the manufacture or assembly of a firearm without (1) obtaining a unique serial number or other mark of identification from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection pursuant to section 3 of this act, and (2) engraving upon or permanently affixing to the firearm such serial number or other mark in a manner that conforms with the requirements imposed on licensed importers and licensed manufacturers of firearms pursuant to 18 USC 134 923(i), as amended from time to time, and any regulation adopted thereunder.”
Gun collectors and historians expressed concern because serial numbers were not required for guns until 1968. They wondered if the legislation would require them to add a serial number to those guns because it would depreciate their value.
Would they be violating a prohibition against ghost guns if they break down an old shotgun and reassemble it?
“If I go to assemble, under this bill I’m putting together a firearm without a serial number,” Warren Stevens, a member of the Southington Sportsman’s Association, told the committee. “Where does that leave me? I’m a felon because I oiled an antique gun?”
Lawmakers who drafted the bill said it wasn’t their intention to have this legislation apply to those situations.
But the question of when a piece of metal becomes a gun was explored at length Monday.
Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said it’s hard to ascertain someone’s intent when they are staring at a block of aluminum.
“I think you’d be surprised to learn how few crimes are committed by guns without serial numbers or that were handmade with care by some enthusiast unless they were stolen to begin with,” Sampson said.
Melissa Kane, president of the Connecticut Against Gun Violence board of directors, said making it harder to trace guns will make it harder to solve crimes.
“It’s hard to determine when a chunk of metal is or is not a gun,” Sampson said.
Kane said when it’s a “lower receiver blank” as defined in the legislation, it becomes a gun.
Despite testimony at the public hearing Monday by gun enthusiasts and Second Amendment supporters, there seems to be bipartisan support for the issue this year.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said it’s very difficult to write legislation that doesn’t inadvertently bring in other areas of manufacturing.
“Depending on how that bill looks it probably would get bipartisan support,” Candelora said.
Similar legislation died on the House calendar last year before becoming an issue on the campaign trail.
The bill was one of four that members of the Democratic majority are pushing this year. The other involves safe gun storage in homes and cars and another would require a gun permit holder to show police their permit to carry if asked.