Standing Thursday with state troopers before a massive cache of illegal firearms that had been seized – including “ghost guns” with no serial numbers – Gov. Ned Lamont conceded that his administration hasn’t been able to pass the comprehensive gun legislation that he hoped would stem gun crimes in Connecticut.
Lamont proposed a 52-page bill in February addressing crime that would have required anyone with a home manufactured “ghost gun” with no serial number to register the weapon with the state. But the bill, SB 16, was watered down to five pages with no mention of the registration of ghost guns.
Lamont was successful in 2019 in getting legislation passed that required ghost guns made after 2018, which are typically assembled with parts found on the internet, to receive a serial number through a state police process.
But as he pointed out during a press conference Thursday in Meriden – showing the confiscated weapons that led to the arrest of a New Britain man accused of illegally trafficking firearms – that there is no easy way of discerning whether a gun was manufactured in 2015 or 2019.
“Three years ago we passed a law that any ghost gun after 2018 has to be registered,” Lamont said. “That’s not good enough. I strongly believe that any ghost gun should be registered. We still have work to do in the legislature.”
Lamont’s bill had a lengthy public hearing in March when both those opposed and those in support of the legislation panned major portions of the proposed language, Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said.
“It was a long bill and the opposition was broad,” Winfield said. “We were having a hard time making it work given the length of the session.”
The current version of the bill reinvigorates the gun crimes and tracing task force with funding, but does little else, Winfield said.
The guns Lamont viewed Thursday were seized as part of a 10-month investigation by the state police Bureau of Special Investigations in conjunction with other agencies into the illegal trafficking of weapons, allegedly by Steven Gerent-Mastrianni, 39, of 37 Hillhurst Avenue, New Britain.
Authorities say Gerent-Mastrianni was carrying a ghost gun with no serial number when he was taken into custody Tuesday, state police said. According to police, a search of his home and several vehicles revealed 125 firearms, many of which were illegal and had been fashioned by the New Britain man with the help of parts and a three-dimensional printer that also was confiscated.
The seized firearms included fully automatic weapons, a machine gun, an Uzi submachine gun, a sawed-off shotgun with a muzzle and blade capable of stabbing others, pistols, long guns, and semi-automatic guns. State police and several other agencies said they also found three homemade explosive devices, several illegal large-capacity magazines, and 30,000 to 40,000 rounds of ammunition stowed in several cases.
Gerent-Mastrianni was charged with dozens of crimes including 19 counts of selling large-capacity magazines, nine counts each of sale of an assault weapon and illegal transfer of a long gun, possession of a machine gun, and possession of a ghost gun without a serial number. He was held on a $500,000 bond after his arraignment in New Britain Superior Court.
“This is shocking. This is a flea market of illegal guns,” Lamont said after seeing the weapons that were displayed by state police. “This has nothing to do with hunting.”
State Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said the sheer number of weapons and ammunition seized was worthy of a “show and tell” session. “Pictures do not do this justice,” said Rovella who called Gerent-Mastrianni “an entrepreneur” with a “cottage industry.”
Gerent-Mastrianni was allegedly involved in every step of the process of creating and distributing the illegal weapons, Rovella said.
The weapons begged a “conversation about gun runners,” Rovella said.
Following the passage and enactment of the legislation requiring ghost guns manufactured after 2018 to be registered, there were seven illegal ghost guns found in Hartford, three in Waterbury, and three in New Haven in 2020, Rovella said.
Those numbers jumped to 29 more found in Hartford, nine more in Waterbury, and 15 more in New Haven in 2021, Rovella said. “During the first quarter of 2022, Hartford had 20, Waterbury four, and New Haven 10, so we are on track to surpass last year,” Rovella said.
The ongoing investigation led state police to conclude that Gerent-Mastrianni was illegally manufacturing and selling guns, “to any buyer who wanted a firearm,” said State police Lt. Anthony Guiliano, whose unit led the investigation.
Gerent-Mastrianni is due back in court on May 10. The search and arrest warrants have been sealed for 14 days.