Lawmakers question bill to compel gun owners to produce permit for police

Lawmakers question bill to compel gun owners to produce permit for police

Record-Journal


HARTFORD — Lawmakers heard concerns from both sides of the political aisle Wednesday as law enforcement pushed for the right to compel gun owners to produce their permits when openly carrying a firearm.

The bill, as expected, received questions from Second Amendment advocates about whether granting police the authority would lead to unlawful stops and searches against otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

“That’s one of my concerns here and I keep saying about this bill, and we had it last year, that I don’t think passing it makes one bit of difference and that is because the Constitution is still going to apply,” said Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, one of many lawmakers and speakers to reference the Fourth Amendment.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane argued that giving police the right to compel anyone openly carrying a firearm — the bill wouldn’t apply to concealed carry — is the same standard that applies to licenses to fish or drive a vehicle.

Opponents of the bill, though, said police can only ask to see a driver’s license at a motor vehicle stop, and cannot make the request to random people in public. Additionally, some questioned if the same standard can apply to a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Some Democrats, particularly members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, raised concern that the bill could result in racial profiling.

Currently, police must demonstrate reasonable suspicion that a person is committing a crime or will soon do so. Gun owners can lawfully refuse to produce their permits if the standard is not met, even though they are required to possess the document when they are carrying a firearm.

Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, and others on the committee raised concerns about so-called “terry stops,” which require standards below probable cause for police to lawfully stop and search individuals.

“It makes me think about stop and frisk and other things where, when we’ve written a law, in some ways, unintentionally, it’s not less intrusive to certain populations,” Winfield said, referencing the controversial New York City policy.

Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, expanded upon the concern, picking up on Kane’s comments that the authority may be applied differently across the state. Kane said this might mean police ask to see the permit of a gun owner in a shopping center but not in a rural coffee shop during hunting season.

Suzio said this could also mean that urban and rural police departments generally apply the standard differently.

“You and I both know that subconsciously they’re going to make that decision based on other factors,” he said.

Kane, meanwhile, voiced support for the proposal, backing police officials around the state who say the change is needed to ensure public safety.

The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association urged lawmakers to adopt the change, saying a handful of Second Amendment advocates have tried to stage confrontations with police in hopes that officers will ask to see a permit without grounds to do so.

“These situations are unnerving to the public and have the potential to escalate to confrontations,” the association said in written testimony.

Kane said police need the authority when they are called by people who are alarmed by the sight of someone openly carrying a firearm.

Winfield questioned the purpose the of the bill, though, saying people’s concerns likely won’t be alleviated by the news that the individual has a permit to carry the firearm.

The Judiciary Committee is also considering a bill that would allow Connecticut to recognize firearms permits from other states, as long as those states have similar standards.

Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the bill would allow lawful gun owners to travel without fear that their firearms will be confiscated in Connecticut.

“Law abiding permit holders do not turn into blood-thirsty criminals just because they wish to cross state lines for otherwise lawful purposes,” he said.

Ron Picarro, president of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said lawmakers should reject the bill because Connecticut has the second toughest gun laws in the nation, setting a standard other states won’t meet.

“Allowing more guns to be carried in our state does not serve the public safety interest of our residents,” he said.

msavino@record-journal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @reporter_savino


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