Changes to Connecticut’s gun laws including the state assault weapons ban and open carry policies were among the public safety proposals Gov. Ned Lamont announced during a Monday press conference.
The governor outlined a package of requests for the upcoming legislative session during a televised press conference from the state Capitol building. The set of policies — focused on crime, law enforcement, and gun violence — follow months of calls from Republican lawmakers who have sought stricter juvenile crime laws to curb auto thefts and violence.
Lamont’s proposals came with a request that lawmakers move quickly to confirm as many as 20 soon-to-be-announced judicial nominations and the governor told reporters the state should explore a Republican proposal to reopen the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, which was closed under his predecessor. But much of Lamont’s public safety package centered on gun safety policies.
“I gotta say, you’re not tough on crime if you’re weak on guns,” Lamont said. “We’re going to continue to stay tough on guns.”
Among the policies sought by the administration were alterations to Connecticut’s assault weapons ban. One change would broaden the ban to include otherwise-covered weapons purchased with an arm brace rather than stock. Another would remove an exemption for weapons manufactured before 1993. If passed, both changes would allow a period for people who already own impacted guns to register them with the state.
The administration will also seek a change to the state’s open carry law, which currently prevents police officers from asking for the permits of residents openly carrying firearms in public. The proposal would allow law enforcement to request the permits of people bringing weapons to polling places, public buildings and transit, as well as protests and demonstrations.
Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said police have requested the change in part due to the high-profile case of Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois man who was acquitted by a jury after shooting three men, two fatally, during protests in Wisconsin.
“We’ve noticed Rittenhouse out in Wisconsin. Part of this is also tied to disorder or public free speech,” Rovella said. “We have folks carrying around these guns intimidating free speech… Police officers need the proper tools to keep themselves safe, to keep protesters safe.”
Other policies seek to require the registration of “ghost guns,” manufactured before a state ban passed in 2019. Ghost guns typically have no traceable serial number and are built from kits. Another change would automatically disqualify anyone with a domestic violence conviction from receiving a gun permit.
“We have more damn guns on the street than ever before in this state,” Lamont said. “We have more legal guns, we have more illegal guns… they’re coming in from out of state and more guns on the street, more guns in the home means more gun violence and we’re suffering from that gun violence.”
Lamont also proposed to expand the firearms storage law known as Ethan’s Law, to require that all guns be sold with trigger locks. Currently the law requires trigger lock for pistols and revolvers.
In a joint statement, the ranking House Republicans of the legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committees condemned the governor’s proposals, calling them poorly-planned and failing to address crime in the state.
“While lawful Connecticut citizens are, on an almost daily basis, being victimized by brazen criminals with little fear of punishment, the governor has chosen an aged election-year tactic of attacking law-abiding gun owners in an effort to distract from his administration’s utter failure to address criminal justice policies,” Reps. Craig Fishbein of Wallingford and Greg Howard of North Stonington, said.
According to a press release, the governor’s upcoming budget proposal will include an additional $64 million in funding for public safety investments including law enforcement training, programing for crime victims, efforts to clear judicial backlogs, and speedier forensic science testing.