Connecticut, the very cradle of the firearms industry, will soon, it appears, have some of the very worst gun laws in the nation.
Legislators, both Democrat and Republican, are expected to pass tomorrow a package of laws that will make the home of firms like Charter Arms, Colt, Mossberg and Stag Arms a very hostile place for gun owners.
As you would expect, the prospective laws would make it illegal to sell or transfer "assault weapons," which would be newly defined as having any one of the traditional naughty features like a bayonet lug or flash hider. If you own one now, you can keep it if you register it, but you can never sell it inside the state. In its generosity, the Connecticut legislature will let you bequeath it to a family member.
You also can keep existing large-capacity magazines, but must declare them by Jan. 1 and can load them with more than 10 rounds only inside the home or at a range. This was a disappointment to Connecticut anti-gunners, who had fought hard for outright confiscation.
As magazines are not usually serial numbered, it was unclear how the registered magazines would be identified. Presumably the state will prescribe some marking method that will make rounding up the magazines more convenient when, as they promise, the anti-gunners succeed in outlawing them.
Perhaps even more ominously, the new law would establish a "certificate of eligibility" for purchasing ammunition that would require a NICS check as currently required for a Connecticut pistol permit. This requirement would ensnare gun owners who previously have not had their names on any sort of state list. If you're one of those who think only black guns and pistols are threatened and you can quietly go about owning a .22 or shotgun, surprise: you just got involved.
As you would expect, universal background checks are part of the program, and they are expanded to long guns. So if you want to sell that Parker to your brother in law, it's going to be part of the paper trail, too. The law also distinguishes semi-autos that aren't "assault weapons" from other rifles by making the minimum age for purchase 21, rather than 18. So if you think there's no shadow over that Ruger 10/22 or Browning BAR, think again.
Taking a page from the management of sex offenders, the legislature proposes the first statewide dangerous weapon offender registry in the country. Anyone convicted of any of 40 or more specific crimes, most of them involving shootings, would have to be enrolled and report his address to law enforcement for five years after release from prison. Unlike many sex offender registries, this one would be accessible only by police.
The proposed laws also would increase the "look-back" period for those involuntarily confined or admitted to a hospital for mental illness from a year to five years.
Gun owners may be more accepting of these last measures, though how they are interpreted will make the difference: the expansion of state power always carries risks.
Connecticut anti-gunners were giddy with joy at their success and vowed to push for even more draconian measures. "We're not totally satisfied with everything," Connecticut Against Gun Violence Director Ron Pinciaro said, "but — I think we're in the land of political reality right now — and we're not going to push anybody to push an amendment" for immediate confiscation of magazines. "It's not a perfect day for us but it's a very good day."
Members of the firearms industry that launched the technological revolution that once made Connecticut the heartland of precision manufacturing saw things the other way. Longtime SGN advertiser Mark Malkowski of Stag Arms said, "We are very disappointed that our legislators, tasked to make us safer, have failed to do so. This bill will do nothing to make us safer and only punish the thousands of CT residents who legally and responsibly use modern sporting rifles for target shooting, hunting or protecting themselves and their families."
Republican legislators again demonstrated why they have become irrelevant in the Northeast, adopting a me-too posture that will gain them only temporary points with the news media, but permanent disdain from gun owners, Their failure to stand up against this package of oppressive legislation will just embolden the gun-haters to demand even more.
I don't doubt that readers in states where the Bill of Rights still means something will want to roll out the welcome mat for Connecticut gun owners and industry. While that sort of solidarity is always heartwarming, it's not a solution. Just as Lincoln said a country can't survive half slave and half free, gun rights can't thrive in a nation where they are celebrated in Utah and ground in the dust in Connecticut.
Just as segregation in Mississippi was, ultimately, Connecticut's problem, oppression of gun owners in Connecticut is a problem for Mississippi or Texas or Wyoming. When these laws are enacted, you will lose something, wherever you are.