“Everyone knew there would be some gun owners flouting the law that legislators hurriedly passed last April, requiring residents to register all military-style rifles with [Connecticut] state police by Dec. 31,” touch.courant.com muses, avoiding the official term for the firearms in question (i.e. “assault rifles”). “But few thought the figures would be this bad.” How bad? The news org reports that . . .
“By the end of 2013, state police had received 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates, Lt. Paul Vance said. An additional 2,100 that were incomplete could still come in. That 50,000 figure could be as little as 15 percent of the rifles classified as assault weapons owned by Connecticut residents.”
As of Jan. 1, Connecticut has very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals — perhaps 100,000 people, almost certainly at least 20,000 — who have broken no other laws. By owning unregistered guns defined as assault weapons, all of them are committing Class D felonies.
Translation: the vast majority of Connecticut’s semi-automatic rifle and standard capacity ammunition magazine owners are practicing “Irish democracy”: ignoring a law with which they do not agree. [Click here for a pdf of FAQs on the Act in question.] As we wondered even before the Constitution State reacted to the Newton massacre by disarming its citizens, what happens next?
Apparently this question didn’t occur to the ranking GOP senator on the legislature’s public safety committee. “I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register,” said Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford. “If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.”
When a politician says the word “honestly” you know he’s FOS. But Tony’s not wrong to be concerned about the next phase of the Constitution State’s crackdown on otherwise law-abiding gun owners.
The problem could explode if Connecticut officials decide to compare the list of people who underwent background checks to buy military-style rifles in the past, to the list of those who registered in 2013. Do they still own those guns? The state might want to know.
“A lot of it is just a question to ask, and I think the firearms unit would be looking at it,” said Mike Lawlor, the state’s top official in criminal justice. “They could send them a letter.”
An aggressive hunt isn’t going to happen, Lawlor said, but even the idea of letters is a scary thought considering thousands of people are now in an uncomfortable position.
To be clear, Mr. Lawlor is the Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning at the Office of Policy and Management for the State of Connecticut. The Agency concerns itself with prisons, mostly. I’m not sure that Reuben F. Bradford, the head of Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (which includes the State Police and the aforementioned firearms unit) would agree that Mr. Lawlor gets the final say in this matter.
Even if Lawlor is the man staying the hand of the State Police when it comes to enforcing the Act and confiscating now-illegal “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines,” who’s to say he won’t get steamrollered by the Governor or the legislature or God knows who when the political climate changes? Say, after the next spree killing. Or a protest over a confiscation gone wrong.
Or nothing at all. Maybe the Governor wakes up one day and thinks…right, that’s it. These gun owners are law breakers. We know who they are. Let’s go get their illegal guns. While the odds of that may seem small, the odds that Connecticut gun owners who haven’t registered their semi-automatic rifles or standard capacity magazines up to this point will do so – without some sort of threat and/or display of force – are nil.
The odds that Connecticut will repeal the Act are lower still. Don’t count on the U.S. Supreme Court to upend the recent federal court decision that the Act is GTG, either. In short, anyone who doesn’t see this situation as a powder keg is in deep denial – a fact that Courant writer Dan Haar seems to grasp well enough.
Lt. Vance compared the noncompliance to motor vehicle registrations, in which some people choose not to follow the law and pay the consequences. Lawlor compared it to speeding — the law is still the law even if many people flout it. But those are infractions and, at worst, misdemeanors. Here we’re talking about turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into felons.
No matter how you look at it, this will not end well.