Congressmen pushing gun control legislation in Washington, D.C. may be locked in an ideological stalemate with no end in sight, but in Connecticut, lawmakers keep throwing the punches.
Connecticut passed a groundbreaking ban on assault weapons eight years ago, establishing Connecticut as a pioneer in gun control. Now, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Democratic legislators think the law needs fixing. Last week, they proposed measures that would close loopholes and usher in a new era of more stringent gun regulation.
“We’ve seen some improvements as a result [of the 1993 ban],” Blumenthal said, “but there’s still an awful lot of work to be done in making guns safer and keeping them out of the hands of criminals and children.”
Connecticut legislators want to revisit the ban, now eight years old, which they feel leaves much to be desired.
On the heels of the 1993 ban, which outlawed specific assault weapon models, gun manufacturers designed look-alike weapons with new names but similar functions. The new proposal would define gun restrictions by weapon characteristics, not by name.
Also included in the proposal is a regulation that law enforcement officers have the right to confiscate any kind of gun from anyone under a restraining order. Connecticut passed a similar law in 1999 that allowed police to seize weapons from any person deemed by a judge to be potentially harmful to himself or others.
In addition, Connecticut would conduct safety tests on handguns before they could be sold in the state. The government would also urge law enforcement agencies to purchase weapons that followed a given set of safety guidelines.
Gun rights activists are crying foul.
“Most of it is eyewash for the public,” said Bob Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen. “This is a media show. [Lawmakers] like to get a lot of publicity. They like to get their face on TV. This happens every year.”
Crook questioned the credentials of those writing the gun control laws, adding that semi-automatic weapons are used recreationally and not just by criminals.
“If you don’t know about what you’re talking about, you certainly can’t write a law about it,” Crook added.
Blumenthal scoffed at the idea that assault weapons should be used recreationally.
“The only purpose of assault weapons is to kill or harm other human beings,” Blumenthal said. “They have no common recreational or hunting or sporting purpose. [Their] predominant purpose is for criminal misconduct.”
But Crook said criminals who want to obtain weapons will find a way to serve their needs — with or without stricter laws.
Gun control advocates disagree.
“That’s a fatalistic argument they use because they don’t have any other argument,” said Nancy Hwa, spokeswoman for the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, who compared gun control measures to speed limits. “We don’t think there’s a place in our society for guns that fire hundreds of rounds in a minute. Okay, so you like to shoot them, but that doesn’t outweigh public safety. People may want to play with hand grenades, but we don’t let them do that.”