After another unthinkable school shooting in Florida, social media has exploded with calls for more gun control laws. While people are advocating for marches across the state, I think it’s important for residents to know Connecticut’s current laws. Not only does our state have the most restrictive gun laws in the country, we have led the charge on school safety reforms.
In Connecticut, any gun purchaser must have a permit and background check, which is conducted for every purchase. The permitting process requires a “suitability” exam, which checks a person’s mental health and criminal background. These permits are revoked if a person is alleged to have committed certain crimes and felonies or undergoes certain mental health treatment. Anyone who is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in the past 5 years and anyone who is voluntarily committed to psychiatric hospitalization in the past 6 months is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm and ammunition. Psychiatric facilities also are required to report to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services individuals who are admitted for mental health services. This information is shared with the Department of Emergency Services, which maintains the gun permit lists. The Florida shooter would never have qualified to purchase or own a gun in Connecticut.
Connecticut has already banned AR-15s, the weapon used in the Florida school shooting, and has banned a host of weapons deemed to be an ‘assault weapon’. In addition, magazines over ten are prohibited in Connecticut. Large capacity magazines, which are necessary when using a ‘bump stock’, can no longer be sold in state.
North Branford paved the way for the discussion of armed guards in schools when the board of education sought to implement that policy over five years ago. I had authored the bill, SB 1099 An Act Concerning School Safety, establishing requirements for municipalities or boards of education to hire active or retired police officers to provide armed security at public schools. Under our law, a retired police officer may be hired if he or she retired from an organized local police department or the State Police, left service in good standing, was authorized to make arrest prior to separation, and met the active duty qualifications in firearms training in the 12 month period prior to hiring.
Some people have called for arming teachers in schools. Based upon my experience and research from our 2013 legislation, I don’t believe that is a viable solution for Connecticut schools. Putting aside how a particular teacher would feel about being trained to use deadly force in classrooms; studies suggest that guns within the classroom raise the risk of accidental discharges of the firearm which outweighs any safety measures.
The missing piece for Connecticut is mental health funding and treatment. Connecticut’s private providers do not have enough resources to properly treat mental illness. It is probably the most difficult issue to address, and yet the most important because all the gun reform laws in the world will not prevent someone’s desire to kill. The recent incident at Middlesex Hospital demonstrates that concern. As a society, we have to come to terms with how to treat mental illness effectively and look at the impacts that television, social media, video games and digital video streaming have on the developing brain. I fear that gun bans are used as an expedient answer to a much bigger problem.