STRATFORD – The city’s Housing Authority commissioners passed a policy on Monday prohibiting the open carry of firearms on the authority’s properties, citing the concerns of tenants.
Elizabeth Sulik, the executive director of Stratford Housing Authority, told CT Examiner that the policy came about when a resident openly carrying at the Raymond E. Baldwin Apartments made other residents uncomfortable. Sulik said she had a conversation with the resident, and he agreed to hide his firearm around other tenants.
“I said, ‘I’m not denying your right.’” Sulik recalled. “I’m telling you, you live in a community with elderly, disabled individuals, and people coming and going from our property aren’t comfortable seeing you walking up and down the sidewalk openly carrying.’”
But Sulik said that about a month later, she saw the resident openly carrying through her office window, which prompted the discussion with commissioners.
Following consultation with attorneys and a 30-day comment period for tenants, the commissioners determined that while Connecticut is an open carry state, state statute 29-28(c) does not authorize a person to carry a weapon if the property owner prohibited it.
Sulik said the authority wanted tenants to feel comfortable and safe, and said no resident was opposed to the new policy. But of the three letters submitted to commissioners, one person, Ed Stodolski, asked them to reject the rule.
“[D]on’t violate my 2nd Amendment rights and my right to carry a firearm,” Stodolski wrote.
Stodolski said the policy was unfair to those who already lived in one of the authority’s developments and wanted to openly carry.
Holly Sullivan, the president of Connecticut Citizens Defense League, told CT Examiner that rather than prohibiting open carry, staff and commissioners should educate other tenants about the permit process in Connecticut, including background checks.
“Instead of simply just reprimanding somebody or asking them to simply stop doing something, maybe have a conversation with the community about law abiding, good people who have proven themselves to be honest members of society,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the policy absolutely impeded Second Amendment rights given that some residents may be physically unable to concealed carry.
“There are people who have to open carry for a variety of reasons,” Sullivan said. “Particularly, handicapped individuals may have more need to have open access to their firearm. Folks that are in wheelchairs often cannot put a firearm in their waistband or elsewhere.”
Sullivan said that unless the Housing Authority was willing to ask tenants for their medical records, they should respect the state law that allows for open carry.
But Jeremy Stein, the executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, told CT Examiner that most people misunderstand what their rights really are. He said there had never been a ruling in this country that gave citizens a constitutional right to openly carry a firearm in public.
While Connecticut law does not make a distinction between open and concealed carry, Stein said, most law-abiding gun owners did not want the hassle of openly carrying a firearm.
“They don’t want people accessing their firearm,” Stein said. “And most people don’t want to make other people uncomfortable by carrying a firearm in public.”
Stein said that as a property owner, Stratford Housing Authority’s right to prohibit firearms was spelled out in Connecticut law.