The Democratic mayors of Connecticut’s four largest cities called Tuesday on the legislature to pass a set of proposals intended to reduce gun violence largely by keeping repeat offenders behind bars.
The mayors of Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury and leaders of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities announced the policies during an afternoon press conference at the state Capitol building with Gov. Ned Lamont, Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin and surviving family members of Connecticut gun violence victims.
“Every single person standing up here has sat in the living room of a mother or a grandmother who has lost a loved one to gun violence and felt through them that grief which must be the deepest grief anybody can feel,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said.
Bronin outlined a set of policies originating from a task force on gun violence convened by CCM last year. The resulting proposals all attempt to crack down on a small number of individuals responsible for a disproportionate amount of gun violence: those with a history of earlier offenses and those free on bail or out on probation or parole.
The proposals would raise from 10% to 30% the percentage of a bond a person with a history of serious firearm offenses must post in order to be released on bail. They would also revoke the release of and forfeit the posted bond of a repeat offender if they are arrested again on gun charges.
The mayor’s proposals also include new rules for individuals with a history of gun offenses when they are out on parole or probation. In both cases they would make it easier for the state to remand the individuals to state custody if they are arrested on serious firearm charges.
Other concepts include speeding up prosecution of people charged with firearm offenses and tweaking the mandatory sentence for people convicted of criminal gun possession to prevent them from being eligible for early release programs.
During the press conference, Griffin, Connecticut’s leading prosecutor, said recent studies of the crimes in the state’s largest cities found that around 70% of identified shooters and gun violence victims had previously been convicted of felonies.
“The sobering reality is that gun violence in Connecticut is largely driven by a small number of high-risk, repeat felony offenders in the 18 to 34 year-old range,” Griffin said. “They are doing the shooting and conversely, they are doing the dying in our cities year-in and year-out with nauseating consistency.”
Several mothers of gun violence victims spoke of the devastation they felt at losing their children to gun violence during the event. LaQuiva Jones, a New Haven mother who lost two sons — Dashown Myers and Dontae Myers — to shootings, advocated for the policies proposed by the mayors.
“If this was in place, my last son would not have been killed. He’d still be here with us today,” she said. “I not only stand for my own children but for the group that I represent — survivors of homicides.”
Although the governor spoke in favor of the policies during Tuesday’s event, he did not include them among the proposals his administration has filed with the legislature this month. Lamont said he was confident lawmakers would raise their own bill and adopt the ideas.
The proposals will meet some resistance in the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, where leaders have favored rehabilitative policies and efforts to address the root economic causes of crime over more punitive measures.
In an interview Tuesday, Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the committee, said he expected his panel to raise legislation containing similar proposals and vet the ideas through a public hearing.
“I’m willing to have a conversation to look at this. I make no promises about where we end up at the end of the day but I think it’s a legitimate conversation to have whether we ultimately agree or disagree,” Winfield said.
However, Winfield said he felt the proposals focused on meeting crime with punitive initiatives once it had already been committed, rather than making an effort to prevent it from happening.
“Here’s the problem, if you not going to deal with — seriously deal with, not just doing a thing over here in a little pocket — but seriously deal panoply of things that tend to be the reasons people cause crime, then you have to keep coming up with these kind of policies,” Winfield said.
Bronin was asked during Tuesday’s press conference whether the mayors were committed to investing in the communities most impacted by gun violence. He said they were and described the slate of proposals as just part of a “broader sustained, comprehensive effort.”
Winfield wasn’t convinced adequate funding would ever reach the impacted communities.
“It is difficult for me to get in other people’s minds but I will say this: we are not going to spend the money we need to spend. We’re just not. Anybody who tells you we are — maybe they haven’t been to the legislature,” Winfield said.