Advocates for gun rights and gun control are expected to pack a Connecticut legislative hearing on several firearms bills, including measures that would tighten safe storage laws and require people openly carrying guns to produce their permits if police ask.
The legislation to be debated Monday at a Judiciary Committee public hearing in Hartford has spurred a flood of written testimony that has been submitted to the panel, both for and against the bills.
The safe storage proposal was drafted in response to the death of 15-year-old Ethan Song, who accidentally shot himself in the head with a handgun owned by his friend’s father in their hometown of Guilford in January 2018.
The friend’s father had kept his three guns secured with gun locks in a plastic container in his bedroom closet, but the keys to the locks and ammunition also were in the container, police said. Prosecutors said they could not charge the friend’s father under the state’s existing safe gun storage law, because it requires only loaded guns to be safely stored and there was no evidence the guns were stored loaded.
Gun control advocates including Ethan’s mother, Kristin Song, said the new bill, called “Ethan’s Law,” would save lives by requiring all guns — loaded or unloaded — to be safely stored. Violating the law would be a felony carrying a prison sentence of one to five years.
“Ethan’s death was completely preventable, if only the father had securely stored his guns,” Kristin Song wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “That’s why I’m fighting to pass ‘Ethan’s Law,’ to strengthen Connecticut’s safe storage requirements.”
Some gun rights supporters are opposing the bill because they believe it would make accessing their guns more difficult during home invasions and burglaries.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the gun rights advocacy group is ready to support the bill, but only if it includes a requirement to educate school-age children about gun safety.
Another one of the most talked-about bills would require people who are openly carrying firearms to produce their gun permits if their firearms are visible and if police request them. Current law requires people to produce their gun permits for police, but only if police have a “reasonable suspicion of a crime” — a requirement that would be eliminated in the new bill.
Gun rights advocates say the bill reminds them of New York City’s former “stop and frisk” policy — which was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 and criticized as discriminatory against minorities — and believe it would violate people’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“This bill clearly targets individuals that have followed the law and have gone through the permit process,” Paul Acampora, of Woodbridge, wrote to the committee. “Removing ‘reasonable suspicion of a crime’ from the current statutes is a bad idea, and allows police officers to ‘stop and frisk’ for no reason.”
Supporters of the bill say that they would feel safer on the streets and that public safety would be protected if people were required to show their permits.
Other gun bills up for discussion at the public hearing would:
— Prohibit cities and towns from imposing their own firearms regulations.
— Ban guns without serial numbers, and regulate so-called “ghost guns” that are assembled by owners or made with 3D printers.
— Allow people to carry handguns in state parks and state forests for self-defense.
— Require safe storage of guns in motor vehicles.
— Allow the transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines between people who already legally possess such weapons and magazines.