HARTFORD – Amid the chorus of renewed anger and exasperation and calls for national action sparked by the mass shooting murder of schoolchildren in Texas, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont was asked Wednesday why his own ambitious gun-violence bill failed to even be brought to a vote last month by a General Assembly dominated by his own party.
“I was very disappointed that there was no mention of guns,” Lamont said at a State Capitol press conference held with lawmakers, advocates and relatives of victims of the 2012 killing of 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. “I’d like to think that we could have done a better job in Connecticut.”
The failed bill would have implemented a number of what were labeled “gun safety” measures, including restricting the carrying of firearms in public and the ownership of “ghost guns” bearing no serial number, and broadening the state’s ban on certain “assault weapons.”
The most heated opposition was to a provision that would have required the state’s 170,000 gun-permit holders to show the document to police upon request even if they are not suspected of a crime.
After an hours-long public hearing when both conservative and progressive advocates agreed the bill’s restrictions went too far, it was all but stripped and was never put to a vote of the full legislature.
Pressed Wednesday on why he believes the bill failed, Lamont said, “I think it’s become an incredibly partisan argument right now in our society. It wasn’t that way 30-40 years ago. So that is disturbing even in a state like Connecticut where after Sandy Hook we had strong bipartisan support,” for stricter gun laws.
Asked whether he would call for a special legislative session to revive the issue, Lamont said he wasn’t “there yet.”
“I’ve got to see if something’s changed,” he said. “I pushed pretty hard on the ghost guns in particular – the illegal guns and I couldn’t get that through. Maybe the world has changed – let me talk to a couple of the legislators.”
Lamont said he could take steps by working with fellow governors to address the trafficking of illegal guns into Connecticut, which is the charge of a state police task force that received funding though the one surviving portion of his comprehensive gun bill.
“These borders are pretty porous when it comes to guns,” Lamont said. “I’ve got guns coming in from the North Country, I’ve got illegal guns coming up from Georgia and the South as well. It’s pretty easy to ship that stuff in here.”
National Republicans were repeatedly derided at the event for blocking hundreds of gun-related bills in the decade since Sandy Hook.
And more than one of the speakers – which included Democratic U.S. Congressmen John Larson and Jahana Hayes – noted that there were no Republican legislators standing with them on the crowded Capitol steps.
“It’s like we can’t have any conversation, all bets are off, when we want to talk about anything that requires having an honest conversation about how we move forward from here,” Hayes said in reference to Republicans members of Congress. “We cannot really want to address this problem if we can’t even talk about it.”
Acknowledging that all legislators from both parties were invited to the event, state Republicans responded with a statement from House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora that cited bi-partisan efforts to address school gun violence since Sandy Hook.
He listed stringent gun-storage regulations, legislation focused on children’s mental health, and enabling cities and towns to employ retired police officers to serve as security guards in school districts.
“The essence of our process—that members of our legislature talk to one another—is something I think members of Congress can learn from as they examine the totality of the truly evil acts committed in Texas,” Candelora said.
Lamont said parents of schoolchildren in Connecticut should “have confidence” in the ability of the state police and school officials to keep students safe.
“They’re doing everything they can to strengthen and harden our schools – millions of dollars there from a physical point of view – more resource officers, more counselors, more police patrols,” Lamont said.
State troopers were to have an “increased presence,” at schools Wednesday, the agency said in a statement, although no specific threats have been received.