Gov. Ned Lamont, Jeremy Stein, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, and Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

For the second time this week, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a set of new firearm restrictions, this time intended to prevent mass shootings by raising the age to purchase a gun and broadening Connecticut’s assault weapons ban.

Policymakers, advocates and doctors joined the governor for a late morning press conference at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford to discuss the proposals. The policies were the second of three expected announcements on gun regulation. Lamont announced the first set earlier this week in Waterbury.

While those first proposals were designed to curb community gun violence, Thursday’s announcement centered on mass shootings and involved revisiting the assault weapons ban, which Connecticut expanded after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“There’s a lot of gun peddlers out there trying to sell these things and work around our system every day,” Lamont said. 

The proposed changes include banning the sale of certain assault style rifles manufactured before and grandfathered under Connecticut’s 1994 assault weapons ban. Those “pre-ban weapons” are currently legal to buy and sell in Connecticut and include AR-style rifles with features like pistol grips and flash suppressors later outlawed by the post-Sandy Hook law.

“They go out and buy assault weapons pre-1994 and say ‘I’m going to get them in some other state, I’m going to bring them here to Connecticut and I can sell them legally.’ Well, not any longer,” Lamont said.

Lamont’s proposal would also close other “loopholes,” which they said gun manufacturers have devised as workarounds for existing weapons bans. For instance, the assault weapons ban refers to centerfire weapons — or guns with a firing pin that strikes a primer in the center of an ammunition casing base. The new proposal would broaden its language to include rimfire weapons, which strike a primer on the casing’s rim. 

Another change would expand the category of banned weapons beyond the pistols, rifles, and shotguns included in the current law to apply to guns specifically designed to fall outside those three categories. 

Other proposals in the bill will include raising the age to purchase a long gun from 18 to 21. A third policy involves high capacity magazines, which were outlawed by a provision of the post-Sandy Hook law, which required residents already in possession of the magazines to keep them if they registered the equipment with the state. 

Currently, the penalty under the law for possessing an unregistered magazine is a $90 fine and a class D felony for subsequent offenses. Lamont’s proposal scraps the initial fine, making the first offense a class D felony.

Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin called the law “effectively unenforceable” because prosecutors can’t be sure when the magazine was acquired. 

“When we recover high capacity magazines at crime scenes over and over and over again, it is virtually impossible for us … as prosecutors to pursue those charges,” Griffin said. 

Dr. Stephanie Montgomery, chief of St. Francis’s trauma and acute care surgery division, said more than 3,000 Americans had been shot in the first few weeks of this year. Montgomery said she had lost count of the number of people she had seen devastated by gunshot wounds. 

“Our children, who are accustomed to shooting drills in school, are still more likely to die of a gunshot wound than any other reason at all. This does not need to happen,” Montgomery said. “We know that there are things that can be done to stop this.

Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said Lamont’s gun policies would be his panel’s top priority. Stafstrom said each of the provisions were common sense ideas.

“Is somebody really going to say it’s okay to buy a long gun but not to buy cigarettes if you’re 20 years old?” Stafstrom said. “If they want to fight that fight, if they want to make that argument, I’m happy to argue it.” 

However, soon after Thursday’s press conference, Rep. Craig Fishbein, a Wallingford Republican and ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, released a statement calling Lamont’s proposals the “latest end-run” around a bipartisan law. 

“If the governor were truly serious about making Connecticut safer he would focus less on disarming law-abiding citizens and instead do more to hold criminals accountable by strengthening penalties for illegal firearm use, ending the practice of early prison release and repealing the policy of criminal record erasure for felony crimes,” Fishbein said.