Connecticut has signed on to a gun trafficking information-sharing agreement with the states of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, the governors of the four states announced Thursday during a joint Zoom conference.
The governors highlighted a memorandum of understanding, which they said would enable law enforcement agencies in the participating states to share data on firearm crimes in an effort to crack down on gun dealers and traffickers.
“Despite our best efforts, despite our best gun safety laws, we have more damn guns on the street than we ever have before,” Gov. Ned Lamont said during the event. “If you’re not taking guns seriously, you’re not taking law and order seriously.”
The four governors, which included Democrats Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Kathy Hochul of New York, and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, likened the multi-state effort to regional cooperation to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus since last year. They said guns are often transported to the region from states with less stringent restrictions on firearm sales.
New Jersey’s Murphy said that state data suggested that 85% of guns recently recovered from crimes there had been tracked from sales in other states.
“Our state and, frankly, our region remains the final destination for guns flowing from the south, especially along the Iron Pipeline,” Murphy said. “Fully 25% of traced crime guns come from just three states: Florida, Georgia and South Carolina where weak gun laws are ripe for exploitation.”
During a separate press conference, Lamont told reporters that some guns recovered from crimes in Connecticut have also been traced to sales in the northern states of Maine and New Hampshire.
Although states are capable of sharing some law enforcement data, Lamont described regional information exchanges prior to the memorandum as “haphazard.” He speculated that the COVID pandemic may have helped to make regional governors more inclined to cooperation.
“[Former New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo and [former Gov. Dannel] Malloy didn’t talk together all that much,” Lamont said. “Maybe some of it’s COVID related, some of it’s personality related, some of it’s technology related but it’s a lot easier for us to work together and share the information we need. That’s what we’re doing and I think we’re better off for it.”
Gun violence in Connecticut and elsewhere has risen during the lingering pandemic. As recently as Thursday morning, three shootings made headlines in Waterbury, including one involving a 14-year-old boy who was in stable condition at Waterbury Hospital, according to NBC Connecticut.
Asked about crime more generally, Lamont pointed to changes, which he said made the criminal records of child offenders more accessible to state judges. However, he said he was willing to consider additional policies to stem crime if the legislature takes up the issue.
“We’ve got to think about constructively what we want to do… If there’s particular concern about car theft, maybe we add that to the list of so-called serious crimes so they get a faster docket,” Lamont said.
The governor said he believed crime was a symptom of the pandemic, driven by stress, social isolation and a slowing of the criminal justice system.
“Look, the wheels of justice slowed down over this last year and a half and there are a lot less people being adjudicated and incarcerated,” he said. “That’s changed over the last few months so we got a lot of catching up to do.”
Jeremy Stein, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said it’s appreciated but it does nothing to prevent gun violence from happening in the first place.
Stein said the state should focus on preventing gun crimes and creating a statewide office that would lead the effort.
“It’s also about trying to figure out solutions as to why people in communities resort to gun violence in the first place,” Stein said.
He said they need to investigate the cause of the violence.
“If you have less jobs, less opportunity, lower quality of life, those are all things that increase violence in our cities,” Stein said.
He said the efforts put forth by the governors today, while laudable, happen after the shooting.