Lamont is ready to ‘challenge the system’ on gun control in CT

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HARTFORD — During the election campaign and in video clips pasted on social media, Gov. Ned Lamont often framed his re-election fight against Republican Bob Stefanowski as a referendum on Connecticut’s tough gun control laws that have been held up as a national model by advocates for over a decade.

In an exclusive meet and greet with Hearst Connecticut Media last week, however, Lamont said he’s coming forward not just to defend the state’s existing laws, but to propose a new set of so-called gun regulations. ghosts, assault weapons and the carrying of firearms in public.

If elected to a second term, the governor has pledged to take a more aggressive approach to enacting gun control measures that were largely removed from his crime bill earlier this year. saying he would resurrect the policy debates that have upset fellow Democrats in the past.

“I think our gun safety laws would definitely be in jeopardy,” Lamont said of the potential for a Stefanowski victory in November. “And if I was re-elected, I would go straight back to the legislature and say ‘There are too many of these illegal ghost guns on the streets and I think at a minimum I want them all registered.’ And by the way, I wouldn’t mind if a cop could ask someone who wears openly, “Can you show me your license to do this?”

Stefanowski, who was supported by the National Rifle Association in his run against Lamont in 2018, mostly tried to avoid the issue this time around by promising not to meddle with the state’s existing gun laws.

“Connecticut has the strictest gun laws in the entire country and that’s how they should stay,” he said in a press release in May.

In addition to proposing new laws, the governor signaled he would push harder for Democrats to support his efforts. Lamont said hesitation from members of his party — particularly in southeast Connecticut — contributed to the removal of his firearms measures from crime legislation earlier this year.

Lamont’s support for legislation allowing police to arrest anyone openly carrying a handgun in order to seek license reductions against the beliefs of some lawmakers in the state’s largest cities, who have in the past , condemned this approach due to concerns about racial profiling.

When asked if he would be willing to get involved in a Democratic primary race to oppose a candidate hostile to his gun policies, Lamont initially said he would think about it. – before returning to this position shortly after in the interview.

“Even Democrats who are more lenient than me on illegal firearms because of the slippery slope argument — which I think is a false argument — are really good on a lot of other issues,” he said. Lamont. “And they tend to be on the moderate side of the equation anyway, which is kind of where I’m at.”

A campaign spokesperson later clarified that it was the governor’s policy not to weigh in on the Democratic primaries.

In other areas, Lamont suggested he would not hesitate to take aggressive action on gun control.

Asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down New York’s gun license law, Lamont said the decision signals a change in the court’s approach to the 2nd Amendment. that could threaten Connecticut’s existing gun regulations. He added, however, that the decision would have little bearing on his approach to enacting new gun regulations.

“I mean, you don’t necessarily want to pass a law that immediately goes to court,” Lamont said. “But maybe I don’t care. Maybe I just want to try and challenge the system.

Lamont inherited some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation when he took the reins of the governor’s office in January 2019.

A few years earlier, following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, state lawmakers introduced universal background checks, high-capacity magazine bans, and registration requirements that been touted as some of the nation’s most effective laws for preventing gun violence. Under Lamont, lawmakers updated the state’s Red Flag Act of the 1990s and passed new legislation mandating the safe storage of firearms.

Kerri Raissian, director of the Gun Violence Prevention Research Interest Group at the University of Connecticut, said Connecticut has remained a leader in gun violence prevention — as evidenced by low per capita deaths from gun violence. firearms – although some states have adopted their own restrictions and others have gone in the opposite direction by making it easier to buy and carry guns.

“Connecticut continued to become more restrictive, while other states became more permissive,” Raissian said. “Connecticut is passing laws that research shows reduce firearm injuries and deaths.”

Lamont began his re-election year with a direct message to Republican lawmakers harassing him for the rising robberies and several high-profile arrests of suburban kids: “You’re not tough on crime if you’re weak on guns.”

Over the following months, however, that message evolved as the governor’s ambitious gun safety reform package faced stiff opposition in public hearings, and Democrats and Republicans worked together to craft their own anti-crime bill focused on increased policing, GPS tracking of youths charged with repeat offenses and more uniform penalties for auto thefts.

Ultimately, the bipartisan package signed by Lamont included only one gun proposal, requiring state police to notify local authorities if a resident fails a background check to purchase a gun. .

After a gunman murdered 21 children and adults on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Lamont focused on the guns — candidly telling his supporters in May that “we could have done a better job in Connecticut”. Still, speaking to Hearst at his campaign offices in Hartford last week, Lamont defended the bipartisan legislation negotiated with Republicans, saying they would have pulled out of the deal if he had insisted on staying in the gun control measures.

“Crime is so politicized, I just thought having a strong bipartisan vote of support for cops, criminal justice, justice and wrap services was worth it,” Lamont said. “Like Reagan said, I’ll come back and fight another day for the other stuff.”

If re-elected, Lamont said he doesn’t expect to get another sign of bipartisan approval to tackle guns, noting that Republicans have increasingly focused on anti-gun measures. school safety and arming teachers instead of enacting new gun ownership regulations.

“If your only response to guns is to put walls and steel doors in front of your libraries, churches and schools, you’ve lost the battle,” Lamont said. “Public safety should be a basic human right, people are playing games with it now.”

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