Gov. Ned Lamont announced two sets of new gun control proposals this week, with a third to come shortly, that are aimed at curbing gun violence in the state. But for a state and a nation despondent over the seemingly endless tide of blood spilled in murders and mass shootings, the question is always: what good will any of this do?
Let’s take a look at what the governor is proposing so far.
The first set of proposals are intended to help prevent gun violence, and include money for community violence intervention programs, limiting handgun purchases to one per month, updating the “ghost gun” ban, and, maybe most controversially, banning open carry.
The second set of measures, which are focused on preventing mass shootings, would close loopholes in the state’s assault weapons ban, increase penalties for violating the state ban on large-capacity magazines, and raise the age to buy firearms to 21.
This all seems very, very reasonable, and, if I’m being honest, tepid. Sadly, I know there’s only so much we can do that the Supreme Court won’t strike down. This is why it’s so hard for states that are intent on following the example of literally every other country on earth when it comes to guns — namely that they should be difficult to buy, and that only very specific types should be available to the public. That’s where we should be heading, except we can’t.
And, before the pro-gun people trot out Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries with strict gun laws and high homicide rates, let me ask you this: where do you think all their black market guns come from? Take a wild guess. It’s like trying to keep your kids from eating sweets when your next-door neighbor has gigantic piles of Jolly Ranchers just sitting there in his front yard, with big friendly signs that say “Eating candy is your constitutional right!”
In general, stricter gun laws lead to less gun crime, while weaker gun laws lead to more. Connecticut actually does pretty well when it comes to gun violence; our death rates from firearms are a lot lower than the vast majority of other states. But there’s always more we can do to choke off the flow of guns at the origin point, the gun stores, and that’s what Lamont’s proposals to raise the age to buy guns and limit people to one handgun purchase per month are supposed to do.
I feel like I need to sit with that last one for a moment. Right now, it’s completely legal to buy as many handguns as you want. Who goes into a store and orders up a hundred handguns?
Yup, traffickers and black market gun merchants. This is how criminals get their guns.
But leave it to Connecticut’s gun lobby to come up with a reason why this would somehow hurt regular people. In a statement released last week, the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League (CCDL) had this to say on limiting firearm transfers: “An individual experiencing a mental health episode and seeking to temporarily relinquish possession of several firearms to another trusted individual or to a federal firearms licensee would be prohibited from doing so.”
What? That has nothing to do with anything, because the proposal is about purchasing guns, not “transferring” them.
The CCDL also thinks we should lay off people who swagger around the Wal-Mart or the Longhorn Steakhouse parking lot with a pistol on their hip, because open carry is rare and “Most permit holders choose concealed carry” anyway.
That does not make me feel better. I’d honestly rather we did this the other way around and ban concealed carry, except that once again the Supreme Court is standing in the way. At least the governor is proposing we ban any kind of carrying of weapons into bars, which, once again, I am amazed that we allow right now.
It’s hard to say how useful any of this might be over time. Connecticut is a small state, and there are plenty of other states to go to with looser gun laws if you really, really want that assault rifle or a crate of handguns. As long as that’s the case, we’re very limited with what we can do here.
The proposal that might be the most effective in the long run may be the least controversial: putting more money into violence intervention programs. This is something urban legislators have long been calling for, and hopefully it will be successful. Anything that legitimately helps at-risk urban youth steer clear of violence is worth doing, and worth funding.
That this is as far as we can get with gun control is a travesty, and a tragedy. But until there’s wholesale change on the Supreme Court and in Congress, this is where we’re stuck.