Proponents of Connecticut’s wide-ranging new gun control law gathered Thursday at the state Capitol building to celebrate the policy just days before provisions including new safe storage requirements and a ban on open carry take effect on Sunday.
Gov. Ned Lamont, legislative leaders and gun violence prevention advocates hosted a morning press conference under the Capitol’s south-facing portico to tout the law’s expected impact on gun violence in Connecticut.
“It is making a difference,” Lamont said of the state’s gun safety policies. “We have one of the lowest gun violence rates in the country and I get no great comfort from that because we still have so far to go.”
Lamont signed the new policy into law after the state legislature’s Democratic majority passed the sprawling bill with support from a handful of Republican legislators. Among the provisions taking effect Sunday is a new ban on openly carrying a gun with the intent to display it in public, an extension of existing safe storage requirements to all Connecticut gun owners, and a three gun cap on handgun purchases for most consumers.
Other new provisions will make it easier for state courts to revoke bail and probation from repeat gun offenders accused of committing another crime.
During the press conference legislative proponents and advocates argued that the state’s existing gun policies helped Connecticut post some of the lowest gun violence rates in the country.
Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, said Connecticut was “light years ahead of the rest of the country.”
“We have led the way on gun policies that save lives,” Stein said. “Our laws, there is no question, saves lives.”
In a statement, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said the press conference suggested state Democrats were out of touch with instances of crime experienced by their constituents.
“That legislative Democrats continue to stand at microphones to brag about how safe our state is a slap in the face to residents who are seeing more and more headlines about serious crimes in communities throughout Connecticut, including citizens of the cities and towns they represent,” Candelora said.
The event outside the state Capitol comes just days before a scheduled rally by gun rights group, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, which is expected to draw gun owners from around the state to the Capitol grounds to mark the last day during which it will be legal to openly carry a firearm in Connecticut.
“Join us at the Capitol grounds to celebrate with us the legacy that open carry has left in Connecticut,” the group wrote on its webpage.
CCDL is among the 2nd Amendment groups, which have recently challenged state gun laws through ongoing lawsuits.
Asked about the rally Thursday, the governor questioned why the group opposed a law that sought to get illegal guns off the street, but urged its protestors to be safe.
“You have the right to peacefully protest and don’t invite violence,” Lamont said. “Be careful.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who helped to guide the bill through the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said the outspoken gun rights group did not necessarily represent the will of all Connecticut gun owners.
“CCDL does not speak for all gun owners,” Stafstrom said. “There are a number of legal, lawful gun owners in this state, who have absolutely no issue with the provisions of this bill. I’ve gotten outreach from a number of my constituents… who are gun owners, who are friends, who are active huntsmen, who say these restrictions in this bill do not place any onus on them.”
Stafstrom and others said Connecticut policymakers would continue to adjust state firearm policies in the sessions to come.
Among the items potentially on the agenda were more restrictive monthly caps on handgun purchases, adjustments to the state assault weapons ban to account for manufacturer attempts to get around the law, and exploring micro-labeling ammunition to help law enforcement officials trace ammo used in crimes.
“We need to be constantly vigilant and never just sit back and say, ‘That’s it. We’ve checked the box on this issue,” Senate President Martin Looney said.
Among the speakers at Thursday’s event was Mariam Azeez, a 17 year-old high school student, who was a student in Newtown when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in 2012.
Azeez read a poem describing fears inspired by the prevalence of mass shootings in American schools.
“This is the hand you cover your mouth with. This is the pencil you will use as a weapon. This is the last text you will ever send your mother,” she said. “I love you, mom.”