HARTFORD, CT — There was an overwhelming sense of optimism Tuesday among proponents of gun control legislation as lawmakers get ready to vote on at least three bills in the coming weeks.
A sea of red shirts packed the Old Judiciary Room at the state Capitol as advocates prepared to try to push the bills over the finish line with just six weeks left in the legislative session.
Supporters were heartened by the words of Gov. Ned Lamont, who told them that when and if the legislature passes the bills, “I will sign them the first day.”
Those bills include “Ethan’s Law” — which would require all firearms, loaded and unloaded, to be safely stored in homes occupied by minors under 18 years of age. The bill, HB 7218, would allow prosecutors to criminally charge the owner of a gun that isn’t properly stored.
Connecticut’s current safe storage law only requires that loaded firearms be properly stored “if a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor.”
Ethan Song, 15, of Guilford, died after he accidentally shot himself in the head in January 2018, the Waterbury state’s attorney’s office said after concluding its investigation.
A juvenile friend of Ethan’s was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death.
Ethan’s parents, Kristin and Mike Song, have been advocating for stronger gun storage laws since their son’s death.
Advocates are also supporting a second bill, HB 7219, which would ban so-called “ghost guns,” which are essentially homemade firearms.
For those pushing gun safety laws, “ghost guns” are particularly dangerous since there is no inspection process and the weapons don’t have serial numbers. Their sales also aren’t recorded, making them impossible to trace if the firearm is used in a crime, lawmakers claim.
A third bill would require owners of pistols and revolvers to store their weapons in a locked container any time they leave their gun in an unattended vehicle. Tougher laws in this area might serve as a deterrent to weapons being stolen from vehicles, proponents claim.
“Ethan’s Law,” drew the lion’s share of the attention Tuesday.
Referring to the bill, Lamont said it must become law. “These are accidents that are tragic — they can’t happen in our state.”
Pointing to the large number of women wearing “Moms Demand Action” shirts in the audience, Lamont told them: “Do not let us forget.”
Tuesday’s event was coordinated by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Everytown is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country with more than 5 million supporters; Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a grassroots movement that lobbies for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.
Ethan’s mom, Kristin, as she did during the public hearing on the bill, had many in tears Tuesday as she talked about the death of her son and her family’s effort since.
Noting that it’s been 20 years since the deadly shooting at Columbine High School, Kristin Song said not nearly enough has been done in the country to stem gun violence.
She also had a message to those on social media who have blamed her and her family for Ethan’s death, for not knowing he had been playing with guns, even before his death.
“I’ve been told it’s my fault,” Kristin Song said. “I’ve been trolled on social media.”
“You know what I say — bring it on. It makes me more determined,” she said as the crowd loudly cheered and others stopped to give her a hug.
Of all the gun bills passed by Judiciary, “Ethan’s Law” is the one that passed with the most bipartisan support.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, has noted that he hasn’t backed gun-control bills in the legislature in the past, but that when he reviewed the safe storage bill with the Song family and legislators from the shoreline area, he believed it was good legislation.
“This issue does not have to be divisive,” Candelora said. “People on both sides of the issue can come together for a common cause.”
Referring to the “ghost gun” bill, Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the legislation is a good reminder that Connecticut cannot rest on its laurels when it comes to passing good gun-control measures.
“There are always new challenges, partially driven by new technology,” Looney said, referring to the fact that parts of ghost guns are bought on the internet. “We have to be constantly vigilant.”
Looney also had a message to those who argue that the bills violate the Second Amendment.
“They are misreading the Constitution,” Looney said, stating there is no such thing as an “absolute right” for any amendment of the Constitution. He said that’s what the phrase “reasonable regulation” means, and why “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.”
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League — which is the largest Second Amendment organization in Connecticut — said that the legislature’s focus is misdirected.
“What society and lawmakers should be focused on is the root causes of violence and the crimes associated with it,” Wilson said. “People steal guns and people commit violent acts. Inanimate objects do not.”
Wilson added: “We all want a safer environment to live in, making it even harder for law abiding citizens to possess firearms is the wrong approach. We urge our lawmakers to protect our Second Amendment rights.”