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Gov. Lamont Proposes Several Anti-Crime, Gun-Safety Measures

They include $64 million to increase police numbers, reduce juvenile crime and revive a gun-tracking task force. The Connecticut governor also wants police to be able to check gun permits for those who openly carry firearms.

(TNS) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday proposed a wide-ranging series of anti-crime and gun-safety measures, including $64 million in new spending to hire more state and local police, reduce juvenile crime and revive a dormant gun-trafficking task force.

Speaking during an afternoon news conference with state officials, gun-safety advocates and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in the State Capitol, Lamont said he expects to nominate as many as 20 new state judges, and he wants to consider reopening the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown.

"I want to see 500 more cops on the street by the end of the year," Lamont said. He proposed identifying chronic juvenile offenders faster and to get them in courthouses, before judges, within 24 hours of their arrests.

Lamont also wants law enforcement officers to have the authority to ask people who openly carry their firearms to show their gun permits. In recent years, legislative attempts to require the presentation of permits have been rejected by lawmakers from urban communities concerned that such requests amount to racial profiling.

In an expansion of the law requiring handguns to be sold with trigger locks, Lamont's plan would require all firearms to be sold with the locks. About $4 million would be invested in more mobile crime labs and upgrade forensic-science abilities.

It's part of Lamont's legislative agenda that he will introduce to the General Assembly on Wednesday, opening day of the 12-week budget-adjustment session of the General Assembly. He also wants to eliminate loopholes in the state's landmark laws against military-style rifles and homemade firearms with untraceable parts called ghost guns.

"We have more damn guns in this state than ever before," Lamont said with more than a dozen advocates and lawmakers in the Capitol's historic Hall of the Flags. "We have more legal guns, we have more illegal guns. You're not tough on crime if you're weak on guns."

He said that while Connecticut is among the national leaders in gun safety, the state needs to do more. Over the last year Lamont has been the target of criticism from Republicans in the General Assembly who have focused on instances of shootings in Connecticut's inner cities as well as an uptick in juveniles stealing cars in the suburbs.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R- North Branford, said Monday afternoon that Lamont isn't focusing on the issues most-important to state residents.

"No matter how hard he tries, the issues he needs to push are not in the forefront," Candelora said. "Just this weekend there is another story about car theft, and another shooting. Gun crime is a very serious issue. We have seen a rise in that. We have also seen crime against police officers. To continue to focus on guns, to me, is trying to deflect from the heart of the issue."

Last week, Candelora proposed anti-crime initiatives, including tougher penalties for some juvenile offenders, and ending some of the police standards and transparency legislation that was enacted after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

"I would like to see us stand up and come up with reforms to protect individuals from crime and preventing those individuals from committing crime," Candelora said in a phone interview. "The state has a revolving door policy that only continues this behavior rather than put an end to it."

State Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D- Bridgeport, co-chairman of the legislative Judiciary Committee, voiced support for Lamont's plan.

"The governor is right to be focused on the proliferation of guns on our streets as the best way to prevent violent crime," Stafstrom said. "The uptick in certain criminal activity we have seen during the pandemic corresponds with a surge in gun sales and the trafficking of guns into our state. We should also look at a microstamping ammunition bill like New York has introduced, putting in place gun purchasing limits and providing notice to law enforcement when someone who fails a background check attempts to purchase a gun."

Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella said the funding under the federal American Rescue Plan Act will help fund local police salaries for participation in the revitalized gun task force and drug-interdiction on highways. "Guns and drugs, really they run hand-in-hand," Rovella said.

Blumenthal said he believes there is support in the Senate for a nationwide version of a law requiring the locking of firearms, inspired by the 2018 accidental death of Ethan Song, of Guilford. The teen's father, Mike Song, said unlocked guns are leading to the deaths of children throughout the country.

"The clock is ticking right now on some young child who's either going to get ahold of their parents' unsecured gun, perhaps they're going to commit suicide with that gun, maybe they'll take it to school as we saw it in Michigan in November and kill some of their classmates," Song said. "It never leaves your mind that at the speed of opening a smart phone, the gun that killed my child could have been secured."

Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, noted that guns are most likely to kill Black men aged 14 to 34. "On average, every day someone is shot in Connecticut and every other day, someone is killed by a gun," Stein said. "We need to do something about this yesterday." He particularly supports Lamont's plan for a statewide strategy for tackling community gun violence.

In October, Lamont joined three other regional governors in forming a task force to stem the flow of guns from southern states into the Northeast through better sharing of the federal firearms-registration database.

Shootings in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport and New Haven have increased over the last two years during the COVID pandemic, while gun crimes are down slightly statewide.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently announced a $7 million program to expand the use of gunshot-detection technology, plus more than $8 million for that 25 nonprofit organizations to focus on community-based violence intervention.

(c)2022 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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