On January 1, much needed common-sense legislation went into effect in Connecticut. Under the new laws, most semi-automatic rifles and rifles with pistol grips are classified as assault weapons, and have been illegal to sell or purchase in the state since April 2013. Anyone who already owned one of these weapons prior to April had until January 1, 2014 to register that weapon.
It is now a Class D felony to own unregistered assault weapons made after 1993, and a misdemeanor to own one manufactured before 1993. The new laws also ban the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and require background checks for private gun purchases, including private sales at gun shows.
The new laws also prohibit convicted felons and those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors involving the use of threat of physical force from owning a firearm.
Supporters of the new laws argue that the state’s approach is both fair and appropriately nuanced. The legislation expands the definition of assault weapons to include over 100 models of guns and rifles, making exceptions for military and law enforcement personnel.
It also gives anyone moving to the state 90 days to sell a banned weapon to licensed dealer out-of-state, render it permanently inoperable, or hand it over to law enforcement.
The laws also enjoy widespread public support in the state. They were approved by bipartisan votes of more than 2-to-1 in both the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives. And while complete records of the registration effort won’t be released for several weeks, initial reports indicate widespread public compliance.
According to Mike Lawlor, Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, over 20 thousand assault weapons had been registered by December 25, 2013.
Perhaps the largest story about the new laws is the lack of any overly dramatic story. Though the NRA has been harshly critical of the new law, its efforts seem to be focused less on judicial action and more on fundraising to defeat Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy’s (D) likely 2014 re-election campaign.
Lawsuits filed by the National Rifle Association and Connecticut Citizen’s Defense League failed to prevent the new laws from taking effect. Though both groups are still challenging the laws, similar challenges in the past have affirmed a state’s right to regulate the sale and possession of assault weapons.