Gun-rights lawmakers overwhelmed in House votes
HARTFORD — Conservative lawmakers who support gun-owner rights showed their numbers in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday and Wednesday, voting against firearms-safety legislation that was overwhelmingly approved.
In votes Tuesday regulating untraceable so-called “ghost” guns, and requiring the safe storage of firearms in the home, conservative Republicans made up the bulk of the opposition. The legislation passed 127-16, and 108-36, respectively.
A third bill was approved Wednesday after a five-and-a-half hour debate. Second Amendment advocates in the House spoke against a measure requiring that firearms be locked when unattended in autos. All three bills head to the Senate.
“I think the ghost gun bill represented a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said veteran Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford. “I don’t think it would protect the public in any significant way. It was mainly feel-good legislation.”
Other opponents included Rep. Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford; Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford; Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven; Rep. Jay Case, R-Winsted; Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, R-Seymour; Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford; Rep. Ben McGorty, R-Shelton; Rep. J.P. Sredzinski, R-Monroe; and Rep. Joe Zullo, R-East Haven.
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said that opponents were counter to widespread public support of gun control. “Their point of view is truly out of line with the average voter in the state of Connecticut,” he told reporters earlier on Wednesday.
Republican supporters of the bill included Reps. Livvy Floren and Fred Camillo of Greenwich; Mitch Bolinsky, of Newtown; Reps. Laura Devlin and Brenda Kupchick, of Fairfield; Rep. John Frey, of Ridgefield; Rep. Steve Harding, of Brookfield; House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, of Derby; Rep. Gail Lavielle, of Wilton; Rep. Tom O’Dea, of New Canaan; Rep. David Rutigliano, of Trumbull, Rep. Richard Smith of New Fairfield, Rep. Terrie Wood of Darien and Rep. David Yaccarino of North Haven.
“I’m all for gun safety,” Floren said in an interview on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, while Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was introducing the legislation aimed at cutting down the number of firearms stolen from vehicles.
Stafstrom said three pieces of gun-safety legislation are the centerpieces of this year’s effort to advance bills after the landmark legislation of 2013 that banned military style weapons in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders. The ghost gun bill would require even hobbyists who make weapons in their homes to apply for gun permits and put serial numbers on their weapons. Nationwide, ghost gun makers take parts to create weapons that are difficult to trace.
“These three bills are a logical extension and complement the post-Sandy Hook laws,” Floren said, adding that she is disappointed that the General Assembly seems to have made little headway in the issue of mental-health program to counsel and treat people from becoming violent.
The companion bill, called Ethan’s Law, is named for a Guilford teen, Ethan Song, who was killed last year while handling a .357 Magnum in a friend’s home. Among the 16 lawmakers who voted against the bill were 15 Republicans, including McGorty and Fishbein. The dead teen’s parents, Mike and Kristin Song, were in the hall of the House for the debate and vote, which occurred at about 7:25 p.m. Tuesday.
The car-storage bill would require firearms to be kept in portable safes or the trunk of cars, under penalty of Class D felonies, with fines of up to $5,000, for repeat offenders. “You cannot prove that I had a safe in my truck,” Yaccarino said. offering the hypothetical of a stolen gun seized later, with no proof that a safe was used but the weapon was stolen anyway. Stafstrom stressed that the burden of proof would be on state prosecutors.
The debate started at 12:45 p.m. and at 4:25, Stafstrom offered an amendment to allow metal tool boxes to substitute as gun safes. The amendment passed in a voice vote. The House chamber then froze for 45 minutes, while Republicans drafted a bipartisan amendment that would allow gun owners to store weapons in the glove compartments of their vehicles, if the equipment is lockable.
The bill finally passed at about 6:20 p.m., 98-48. Those who voted against the bill included Rep. Kara Rochelle, D-Ansonia; Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford; Case; Fishbein; Ferraro; Klarides-Ditria; Rep. Jason Perillo, R-Shelton; Rutigliano; Smith; Sredzinski; Yaccarino; and Zullo.