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State, Congress Feel New Urgency for Stronger Gun Laws

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Thursday, March 25, 2021   

Correction: the Connecticut Lottery mass shooting occurred in 1998. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the event happened in 1999. (1:12 p.m EST., March 25, 2021)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- After this week's second mass shooting in the U.S., a Connecticut gun-safety group hopes the state takes its current gun laws a step further, and looks to Congress to enact stronger legislation nationally.

Last week in Congress, Connecticut and Maryland lawmakers introduced the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, which would set up a federal grant program, to motivate state and local governments to create permit-to-purchase handgun laws.

Jeremy Stein executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, said a 10-year-old state law has curbed gun homicides by 40%, and thinks it's time to expand it to the national level.

"About 50% of the guns used in crimes are coming from states with weak gun laws; states with no universal background checks, that don't have permit-to-purchase laws," Stein asserted. "States that don't have training requirements; that allow homemade 'ghost guns;' unregistered, unlicensed, untraceable guns to be sold."

Last month, the U.S. House passed two bills, House Resolution 8 and House Resolution 1446, to expand background checks on firearm sales.

Stein is unsure if they'll pass, however, since Second-Amendment concerns have been cited in the U.S. Senate for years as reasons not to pass stronger gun laws.

The Connecticut Assembly is considering a bill to strengthen existing law on risk-protection orders or warrants, that could remove firearms from people at risk of harming themselves or others.

Stein noted it includes easing the process to obtain a risk-protection order.

"It's looking to expand who can apply for these types of orders, to make sure that family members, physicians and mental-health providers can also petition a court to get an order, without the necessity of involving law enforcement," Stein explained.

Connecticut's risk-protection order law was the first of its kind in the nation, enacted after the 1998 Connecticut Lottery mass shooting.

Stein added preventing mass shootings remains a top priority, but addressing daily community violence is also at the forefront. His group supports a bill to fund community-based violence-prevention programs.

"Connecticut should follow California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, to form a better overall plan as to how we can finally end gun violence in Connecticut," Stein argued. "And to focus on places like New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, where gun violence is most prevalent, and that mostly affects Black and Brown communities."

According to the Center for American Progress, only 10% of Connecticut's population is Black, but more than half of the state's gun-homicide victims are Black.

Both bills are in the Legislature's Public Safety Committee.


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