There was a big turnout Sunday, January 13th, at the Gun Control Forum hosted by the Peace, Affirmation and Justice Committee at the First Congregational Church in Guilford. While Craig Mullet, the leader of the organization opened up the forum with a short presentation and remarks, state Sen. Ed Meyer's presentation of his Proposed Bill on Gun Control remained the focal point of the day's discussion.
After the forum was relocated from the chapel to the sanctuary to accommodate the large crowd, Sen. Meyer, D-12th District, began his presentation with a summary of current gun laws in Connecticut. Meyer, who represents the towns of Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison and North Branford, called Pat Leary, a recently retired Guilford Police Officer to the stand to aid him in the presentation.
"We can look at the violence in Connecticut from three standpoints, from a perspective of guns and gun control, mental health, and school security," Meyer told the audience.
"If we look at mental health we're limited with options," Meyer continued. "First, we can't mandate psychiatric evaluations before an individual purchases a gun because it's unconstitutional. Second, we're pretty broke as as state. There is no surplus to start using to increase mental health services. If we do that here in Guilford, your property taxes are going to go up."
"Next, we can look at school security," Meyer went on to say. "We did a calculation with the Guilford Police Department and if we were to implement the NRA's proposal here in town to put an officer at every school, it would cost Guilford about a million dollars a year." As a result, Meyer said he was looking a higher gun restrictions.
Meyer's proposed bill, Proposed Bill No. 122, which he handed out to those who attended the meeting, includes the following:
That the general statutes be amended to establish a class C felony offense, except for certain military and law enforcement personnel and certain gun clubs, for (1) any person or organization to purchase, sell, donate, transport, possess or use any gun except one made to fire a single round, (2) any person to fire a gun containing more than a single round, (3) any person or organization to receive from another state, territory or country a gun made to fire multiple rounds, or (4) any person or organization to purchase, sell, donate or possess a magazine or clip capable of holding more than one round.
"There is no one great, complete answer to gun violence here in Connecticut," Meyer went on to say. "But we can make our best effort by limiting magazines and weapon features."
Meyer also commented on other bills proposed to the legislation that would limit the capacity of a magazine to 10 rounds. "I was influenced a lot by what I learned from the State Police," Meyer said. "They told me you can take out a magazine and replace it in about one second. So in my eyes, there is no real benefit to a reduction like this."
The Senator concluded his presentation saying:
"There are three reasons, theoretically that you want a gun: to protect your home, to go hunting or target practice at a gun range. As far as I know, and I asked the state police this question, in the state's recent history, there has not been a case when an intruder being stopped by a gun during a home invasion. And when you go hunting, you bring down your target in one shot. As for the last reason, by bill makes an exception for gun ranges as long as the weapon is registered with the state police and is maintained under secure conditions a the gun club."
After the presentation, the question and answer session began, and many hands went up around the room. Ed Bartlett, a Guilford resident, asked "Why are we not taking a preventative approach by educating and enforcing current laws?" A Madison resident asked what would happen to family heirlooms: "If I don't give these up, will they be seized?"
A social worker who attended the meeting asked, "Many of the guns involved in crimes are often stolen from a law abiding citizen, how would your bill help to prevent that?" Another Guilford resident asked, "I'm a law abiding citizen, how am I going to protect myself?"
Meyer addressed several of the questions, and then pressed for time, the meeting came to a conclusion. Meyer told Madison Patch he's aware, after talking with other legislators in Hartford, that his bill is considered "the extreme position." Meyer even shared some negative emails he had recieved concerning the bill with the audience (see video).
"I like my bill. But I will vote for any reasonable compromise," he told Madison Patch. We have got to try to make a difference here. And it has to be done in Connecticut, because it's not going to happen in the U.S. Congress."
When Guilford Patch asked about how Meyer felt about reactions at the forum, Meyer said, "I thought the reaction at the forum was representative of the feelings in Connecticut. Generally, people want more rigid gun control, but there is also a minority that was represented that are opposed to any gun control, and they are a very vocal group."
Meyer also said that after hearing feedback from one individual at the forum, he was open to amending his bill around the issue of duck hunting. "One individual approached me and shared the difficulty there exists for only round being allowed for duck hunting. I would be very open to allow more than one shell for the shooting ducks."
Outside the church walls, at the conclusion of the presentation, Meyer was met with several more questions and feedback. Many attendees of the forum lingered, discussing the issue.
One attendant of the meeting gun rights activist Richard Burgess, of the non-profit group Connecticut Carry, lodged a complaint against Sen. Meyer and Leary. Burgess alleged that the use of the BB gun during the presentation violated state statute 53-206. The Guilford Police Department said Monday the case has been closed, and after the investigation, no criminal violation was found. See the full story here.
Madison Patch Editor Pem McNerney contributed to this story.