So the grace period for gun owners in the Constitution State to register their “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines has come and gone. Despite this, only a small percentage of legal gun owners have willingly stepped forward and completed the registration process, effectively telling state legislators just what they think of them and their anti-gun laws. This sets an interesting dynamic, do state lawmakers go further and enforce their restrictions on the 2nd Amendment further by mandating inspections and confiscations on registrants, or do they repeal what was in effect an unenforceable law?
In 2013, following the tragedy of Sandy Hook, CT lawmakers made their move to impose some of the nation’s strictest gun control measures despite not waiting for the official investigation results. As a result the law effectively banned more than 100 modern type semi-automatic weapons and grandfathered in current owners provided they submit personal information on themselves and what weapons they own by registering with the state. The law also made similar measures for so-called high capacity magazines setting the legal limit for weapons and magazines at only those that hold ten rounds or less. In the registration’s run-up to the January 1st, 2014 deadline, America watched as CT citizens willingly lined up to fill out forms and identify themselves as gun owners of the feared “assault weapon”. (McHugh) Many outside of CT drew comparison to the actions of legislators and the people to those of pre-WWII Germans complying with Hitler’s pre-war government.
But now that we’re well into 2014, details are emerging into just how much CT gun owners are following through on their levels of “civil disobedience”. According to multiple outlets, by the end of 2013 state police reported only 47,916 citizens had registered for assault weapon certificates (with 2,100 additional incomplete/rejected applications that will not be filed). Depending on who is compiling the statistics, estimates on the potential number of actual assault weapons in CT place them in excess of 350,000. Likewise only 36,932 high-capacity magazines were registered from an estimated over 2 million on the market. While those numbers reflect one weapon for every ten CT residents (and far more magazines) it is also unlikely – but translates to less than 15% of CT gun owners have willingly complied with the regulations by its effective date of January 1st. In essence, the CT gun regulations have effectively created as many as 100,000 new felons who have done nothing aside from owning their 2nd Amendment-supplied right of a modern rifle or high capacity magazine. (Cooke)
Yet amazingly, CT lawmakers don’t recognize this mass failure as “civil disobedience” but interpret it as thousands flaunting the law – something that needs to be “corrected”. Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford and leading senator on the CT Public Safety Committee said,
“I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register. If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.” (McHugh)
Guglielmo says residents think that their rights are being violated, and they refuse to abide by the law. He says he has never seen a law willfully disobeyed like this. (File) Mike Lawlor, undersecretary of Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management, said that the state has not made plans to pursue unregistered gun owners as even sending out a reminder letter could spark tensions between gun owners and officials. Lawlor instead suggested first extending the deadline a second time (the first was an attempt to process registrations filed after the 1st but were unable to be completed due to the holidays) and hold an outreach campaign to “encourage” submissions. However, the Democratic governor’s office, opposes the so-called “amnesty” effort, sending a letter to fellow legislators stating gun owners who failed to comply by the deadline were just “too late” to do anything about it and maintained,
Individuals whose late registrations were not processed can render their magazine or firearm inoperable, sell it to a licensed gun dealer, remove it from the state, or turn it over to law enforcement. (Harr)
If found in possession of an unregistered “assault weapon” or high-capacity magazine it is considered a Class D felony and will result in a fine with further offenses punishable by up to five years in a federal prison.
This dynamic with such a significant number of citizens disobeying a law (indeed enough people to fill a major city) sets an interesting stage. If lawmakers push the issue further, they may merely offer further “amnesty” as a means to save face amid a largely ineffective law and cite gun owners as “ignorant” or unaware of the law’s requirement (despite its widespread notice). (Harr) Or they could go the opposite direction, and skip the public notice letters and began comparing the state’s previous list of background checks when purchasing a military-style rifle against the list of those who registered in 2013. This would certainly bring about investigations, persecution and confiscation of only legal gun owners. The latter course of action is more extreme and highly unlikely, as it would place a potential up-swelling of public opinion against them. Realistically, state lawmakers and enforcement will probably try a blend of the two, using the ownership registration database compared to the list of 2013 registrants – and then send public notices/letters similar to what gun owners in New York City experienced under the implementation of the SAFE act (read more here) basically telling them to comply with the regulations or face prosecution. In any event I seriously doubt regulators will repeal the useless law, or admit their failure stems from emotionally passing biased gun regulations and not actually engaging with the public to find a suitable median that would address both gun safety and freedoms. As for the Connecticut residents legally “disobeying”…stay strong.
Cooke, Charles. “En Masse, Connecticut’s Gun Owners Defy New Registration Law.” 13 February 2014. National Review. 13 February 2014 <http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/371093/en-masse-connecticuts-gun-owners-defy-new-registration-law-charles-c-w-cooke>.
Harr, Dan. “Untold Thousands Flout Gun Registration Law.” 10 February 2014. The Heartford Courant. 13 February 2014 <http://articles.courant.com/2014-02-10/business/hc-haar-gun-registration-felons-20140210_1_assault-weapons-rifles-gun-registration-law>.
McHugh, Kate. “Law-abiding Connecticut gun owners may face FELONY CHARGES for failing to register weapons.” 13 February 2014. The Daily Caller. 13 February 2014 <http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/13/law-abiding-connecticut-gun-owners-may-face-felony-charges-for-failing-to-register-weapons/>.
Reports: CT Gun Owners Refusing to Register Their Guns. By The Kelly File. Fox News Insider. Fox News, 2013.