HARTFORD, CT — “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 — easily passed the House on Tuesday with bipartisan support.
The bill, which passed by a 127-16 vote, would allow prosecutors to criminally charge the owner of a gun that isn’t properly stored. It now moves to the Senate.
Gov. Ned Lamont has already endorsed the legislation.
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, of Guilford, died of a self-inflicted gunshot. The 15-year-old 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 become nationally known advocates for stronger gun storage laws since the death of their son.
The Songs watched the vote from the House gallery.
Following the vote, Kristin Song used a word that’s she’s used before to describe her feelings as the legislation has moved forward — “bittersweet.”
Song spent her morning picking out a tombstone for her son, which is something she said she’s been unable to do since his death.
“I just kept thinking how ironic it was that I was picking out a tombstone for my son on the same day we’re going up to do Ethan’s Law,” Song said.
Michael Song said at times during the debate he felt like Ethan was right next to him and at other times he was so far away from him that he couldn’t bear it.
“To see people meet in the middle is really gratifying,” Song said.
Kristin Song added that she’s “so happy people are willing to step up and make a change, especially the Republicans.”
She said she was perplexed by some of the pushback against the bill because it doesn’t infringe on anybody’s right to own a gun.
“We have so much more in common than what separates us. We all want to keep our loved ones safe, we all want to keep guns out of the hands of the bad guys, we all want a safer America,” Kristin Song said. “There is a balance between freedom and responsibility. Freedom is great, but it has always come with limits.”
Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, told his colleagues: “My community, my hometown suffered an unspeakable tragedy. Ethan’s parents did everything right; they raised Ethan and two other kids as best as they could and yet, there was nothing they could do.
“Somebody else, a different person, improperly stored a firearm,” Scanlon said.
Looking up at the gallery where the Songs were listening to the debate, Scanlon told the couple that they “have showed more courage than I thought was possible in two people.”
Scanlon continued: “To bury a child and then go out in public and try and change something, try to change our state. But today we are going to do something very special in his honor and your honor.”
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, whose district includes Guilford, worked with Scanlon and the other shoreline legislators on the bill and has noted in the past that he was one who has not been a strong supporter of repealing gun owner rights.
But he said “Ethan’s Law” was an example “of the way we should do things in this chamber,” noting the bill came from dialogues between legislators of both parties, rather than confrontation. Again, referring to the Songs, Candelora said: “I hope this bill will start the healing process for them.”
Part of the language bill does not mandate but rather calls for state education officials to provide guidance to local school districts on developing firearm safety programs in schools.
The president of largest Second Amendment organization in Connecticut, Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson, was happy that language is part of the bill.
“Rather than criminalizing gun ownership, teaching children to understand the importance of what can happen if a firearm is handled without adult supervision is much more important,” Wilson said.
The Songs will be making a return trip to Washington later this month, Kristin Song said, when Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is expected to introduce federal legislation modeled after Connecticut’s “Ethan’s Law” bill.
Christine Stuart contributed to this report.