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Urban Crime Victims Call For Stricter Handgun Laws

by Christine Stuart | Feb 27, 2013 6:06pm
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News, New Haven, Public Safety, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo

Kim Mozell of New Haven lost her son to gun violence less than a year ago

The Newtown shootings may have prompted a national debate on gun control, but lawmakers from Connecticut’s urban areas want to make sure their voices — and the voices of victims — don’t get lost in the debate.

Kim Mozell, a mother from New Haven who lost her 19-year-old son Thomas last year to gun violence, said what happened in Newtown was sad, but it happens every day in places like New Haven.

“We have our young black children dying every day,” Mozell said at a Capitol press conference Wednesday.

There are no leads in her son’s case, but it makes Mozell wonder where the guns are coming from. “How could these little kids just be running around with these guns? They have to be coming from somewhere,” Mozell said.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said 75 percent of the gun violence in the state takes place in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport. The weapon of choice in those communities is not an AR-15 like the one used in the Newtown shooting.

“It’s a handgun problem. It’s just as urgent and in fact a bigger problem,” Pinciaro said.

“The Newtown incident, understandably, has grabbed the spotlight as it has for the entire country,” he said. “But here is the problem that affects many people every day, it’s been happening for years, and the voice has not gotten enough attention.”

Pinciaro’s organization wants lawmakers to pass a law mandating that the Connecticut State Police register all handguns on an annual basis. They also want background checks to be conducted on an annual basis. Usually, background checks are conducted at the point of sale if the gun is purchased from a federally licensed firearm dealer. Currently, background checks don’t have to be conducted for private sales or transfers of handguns.

“Since all gun sales presumably start with a legal purchase, the problem of legally purchased handguns getting into the hands of prohibited users is a significant and serious one,” a press release from Connecticut Against Gun Violence says.

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said there isn’t a shooting every single day in Connecticut, but every day gun violence affects people in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.

“We’re talking about gun violence that is real in the lives of people in the city I represent and the cities many of the people in the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus represent,” Holder-Winfield said.

He said it’s important to talk about long guns, AR-15s, and high capacity magazines like the ones used in the Newtown shooting, but the conversation also needs to include ideas put forth by Connecticut Against Gun Violence, such as annual handgun renewals and restricting handgun purchases to one per month.

Holder-Winfield, a member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said the caucus will put forth a set of its own proposals in the future.

Members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and Pinciaro are glad Gov. Dannel P. Malloy added his voice to the debate last week by releasing his own set of proposals as the legislature’s bipartisan Super Committee struggles to put forth its own proposals.

But Pinciaro said there are a few items missing from Malloy’s proposal that would help reduce gun violence in the urban areas.

He said most urban gun crimes are committed by people prohibited from owning guns, so the question becomes, “Where did they get the gun?” In order to start answering that question the police need to know if guns are in possession of the legal buyer, but tracing guns back to their owners is an onerous and often difficult process.

Pinciaro said limiting handgun purchases to one a month would make it difficult for traffickers to get these guns into the hands of criminals. It would make it difficult for the traffickers to get bulk discounts and to sell the guns on the street without fear they would be traced back to them.

Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, said that if the state wants to do something about gun trafficking it should think about funding the Gun Trafficking Task Force it eliminated from the budget back in 2009.

The Gun Trafficking Task Force established in 2001 started with an annual budget of $386,000 and 11 people its first year. But by the time the economy contracted in 2003, funding had dwindled to about $50,000 a year. The task force had all but disappeared when bodies started piling up again in Connecticut’s cities and lawmakers replenished the funding to about $400,000 in both fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

But when lawmakers and former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell couldn’t agree where to make cuts in 2009, the gun trafficking task force was one of the casualties of the longest budget debate in state history.

“We need enforcement and prosecution,” Crook said.

An Office of Legislative Research report from 2007 shows that most gun convictions are nolled by the courts.

“So where is our priority?” Crook said.

Crook panned the proposal to limit gun purchases to one gun a month. He said it’s been tried in various states and failed.

“All it does is impact the legitimate citizen,” Crook said. “Sheer stupidity.”

As far as registration is concerned, Crook said it would just turn the state police into the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“And who’s going to register? That’s the question you have to ask. Or are we going to turn all the gun owners into felons,” Crook wondered.

He said if the state moves forward with an assault weapons ban that includes semi-automatic rifles and a ban on high capacity magazines, the Connecticut gun and ammunition companies are going to move out of state.

But Crook, who has lobbied the issue of guns in the Legislative Office Building for 30 years, said he has no idea what lawmakers will pass.

“Everybody’s being very secretive,” Crook said. “Hopefully we’ll have a public hearing so we can ask some of this stuff.”

But lawmakers are taking their time and being deliberative. Malloy lost his patience last week at the lack of action on the issue and released his own gun control proposals, but lawmakers maintained their desire to work on a bipartisan basis.

Holder-Winfield said acting quickly isn’t as important as getting it right.

“If that means we slow down a little bit and get it right by the end of the session, I’m fine with that,” Holder-Winfield said. “All I know is that when we walk out of here in June, as far as I’m concerned, we need to do something that deals with the type of gun violence that is the regular gun violence in this state. If we get rid of AR-15s and we limit magazines and kids are still able to easily get a hold of guns, then I think we failed.”

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(13) Comments

posted by: dano860 | February 27, 2013  8:28pm

G.H.W. is correct, people are not getting shot everyday and if all they do is this session is ban AR 15’s and hi-cap mags then they have failed. The long guns are not the preferred weapon in the drug trade. Also legally purchased hand guns are not the weapon of choice. They can be traced and they are too expensive.
Where are the fathers during this testimony?
I have said it before, the gangs replace the family unit that can keep kids out of trouble.
The AR was developed in the 60’s. The AR stands for Adaptable Rifle, that was the designation given by Colt Firearms. Since the 60’s there have been hundreds of thousands manufactured. Only in the past 25 years has it become the favorite firearm to denigrate.
These problems seem to run side by side with ADD and mental problems, drugging the children and violent video games.
There are over 2000 laws on the books that are not being enforced,lets start there.

posted by: dano860 | February 27, 2013  8:45pm

Before everyone jumps on me about the meaning of AR as it was reported today on Channel 8, Armalite is a firearms company. They make an AR 15 also, plus many other firearms, google them.
A fellow employee of mine worked for Colt developing the M 16 in the 60’s.  He knows the inside story, plus an article in last months Rifleman magazine reports the same meaning as I stated.

posted by: Noteworthy | February 27, 2013  11:12pm

Watching this conversation about guns, the intense lobbying and intentional misinformation makes me want to scream. The CT gun control lobby is just as bad as the NRA. This take no prisoners, remove all your freedoms, jack up your costs mentality as if it has a thimble worth of bearing on urban handgun violence does not contribute to good lawmaking. What is just as disturbing is Holder Winfield’s apparent embrace of this position and he’s from a neighborhood where he really should know better. Let’s be really clear - those who peddle guns in the ghettos of this state are not buying them in bulk and getting a discount for it. That’s just really stupid. Do any of the people in this article actually talk to any informed law enforcement people? Registering handguns, paying more fees, going through annual proctology exams to satisfy the fantasies of the anti-gun people is not going to keep guns out of black community. That’s not where they’re getting the guns. Limiting the number of guns you can buy per month? Oh yes, that works. NOT.

posted by: redman | February 28, 2013  7:11am

We don’t need more gun laws, we have plenty that are not followed. We need laws empowering the police to take the guns from the gang members without the black community complaining about profiling. The black community has the ability to stop their own violence.

posted by: Hebee | February 28, 2013  8:19am

There is not a “Gun Show Loophole” in Connecticut. Previously legislated background checks on all handgun sales (both by private parties and Dealers) have existed for years and each handgun receives a transaction number from the State Police thus registering that specific handgun to the individual State Pistol Permit holder/purchaser. Let me be more specific; A “Gun Show Loophole” does not exist in Connecticut!
    The Gangs are importing guns from States with more lax purchasing requirement along with the drugs to sell and use here. Only National Background checks on weapons AND ammunition will help slow down the import of these guns to Connecticut. Gang members can’t use their illegal guns without bullets.
  Our Connecticut Legislature is working from a suggested menu of over 90 new Gun Law Proposals.  Young inner-city brown and black males, killing each other over a street corner territory or in a Gang Feud, will not stop because of these new proposals. Mentally Ill, young, white males shooting up malls and schools will not be stopped with these feel good campaign stump promises. There are serious problems that have roots in so many different places in our society. You pick one: spoiled children brought up self-entitled by self-involved parents, a failure by many to accept responsibility for their personal actions, the absence of a positive role model or authority figure in many homes or maybe the lack of availability to Mental Health Care. Or maybe just the simple Fact: You can’t become anything good if a Gang is only your family. I do agree with our Legislators on one thing; we must try.
  In an effort to save 8,000 pages of text and Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in tax dollars, Please allow me write the New Gun Legislation for you. I have included points that I don’t really agree with but in all good deals, you must give something to get something:
  1) No civilian should have a more powerful weapon than Law Enforcement, PERIOD!                2) A background check required on ALL weapon sales that applies the same, existing Connecticut handgun requirements and procedures to include ammunition, rifles and shotguns.              3) Include Medical and Mental Health information in the permit and purchase process and make that same Mental Health information available to Law Enforcement.
  We can only hope that the few cool heads in our State and National Legislature will prevail and “Funny Business as Usual” will not win the day once again. It is always Groundhog Day in the Connecticut Capital Building.

posted by: Lawrence | February 28, 2013  8:20am

Where are the fathers during this testimony”

One of them—a firefighter—was there. Maybe the others couldn’t take time off from work, since one parent already was. Watch the video. The three parents who testified seemed like pretty solid people, beset by horrible circumstances.

posted by: Rep Holder-Winfield | February 28, 2013  11:40am

Noteworthy, The police chef of Bridgeport was there as well supporting the proposal.  Does he count as informed law enforcement.  The reason i am talking about bulk purchases is not because of the people on the street buying but it is a method of supplying.  There are two ways (at least to attack the problem) buyer and supplier. Notice that what I actually spoke to was the part of the proposal that deals with how guns are moved in the community.  I said that doing the other stuff is fine but if we failed to address the type of issues in our cities we failed.

posted by: ASTANVET | February 28, 2013  1:46pm

Well at least this issue is the heart of the true violence issue in our state and others.  75% of all gun crime committed in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford - if you want to go further and ad Waterbury and you will account for almost 82%.  Parenting, lack of economic opportunity, recidivism, a culture that embraces “gang” activity, whether it starts out as fashion but it morphs into real crime.  Those people who testified have the ability to stop the cycle of violence.  Take back your community from the gangs!  Don’t stop a man or woman from Avon from buying a gun with all the restrictions we have already - Stop crime where it lives!  Don’t allow it in your house, your block, your community.  You can drive those criminals out of business.  And if you think more laws are what is needed, there are plenty of laws about fencing stolen goods, about drug use and sale, about organized crime, tax evasion, theft, as well as others… yet these criminals have a good supply of drugs, and the other tools for their money raising activities.  Do you honestly think there is not a black market for guns?  You are living in a fantasy land if you think they will not continue to have access to weapons far better than what you can buy at Cabalas.  Some time you should read the justifications for police departments purchase of AR-15’s, and ‘high’ capacity hand guns… it spells out the VERY reason that some of us like to have them.  They are light, low recoil, easy to employ, reliable and maneuverable.  My wife can shoot one without breaking her wrist (the Biden plan).  Stop looking for laws to restrict the tools - and start healing the culture that creates the problem to begin with.

posted by: BrianO | February 28, 2013  2:04pm

Hey Redman, as a white man do you have the ability to stop white violence?  Or violence regarding any other ethnic group to which you may belong?

posted by: Noteworthy | February 28, 2013  5:04pm

HW-

The Chief in Bridgeport does not count. No. What police chief do you know that doesn’t want more power, more people bowing down and filing paperwork and asking permission to buy a handgun? In New Haven, it can take as long as 6 months to buy a handgun legally. Having visited several gun shops since this whole thing erupted, I can tell you that none of these people would sell anybody any “bulk” sales of handguns. Any bulk sales that happen, would happen in another state, not here which begs the question of why is that even under consideration? The only thing that will affect street sales of guns is to catch the gang bangers who are doing it. All of the pending legislation is aimed at people who are not gangsters. It’s time for the cops in our urban areas to do what they’re paid to do. Catch the bad guys. Right now, they’re just rounding them up and “chatting” with them.

posted by: Santa | February 28, 2013  5:52pm

What we really need is for our law enforcement people to do their jobs.  They should be required to be on the streets eight hours a day and do all paperwork on their own time.  If we make our teachers work eight hours a day teaching and do paperwork on their own time why not them?

posted by: Rperezwyd | March 2, 2013  9:14am

Guns don’t kill people   People kill people, I work in a prison and can ask anyone here how easy it is to buy an illegal gun on the street.
Funny the same people that live in the urban areas lots of times know the criminals some are even there kids but won’t do anything about it until a tragedy strikes there home.
This is real info watch the video
New Video Crushes Myth About ‘Large-Capacity’ Magazines - http://cheaperthandirt.com/blog/?p=40165

posted by: BethyGuiles | March 2, 2013  7:38pm

I am very happy to see that the “urban community” take a stand to fight gun violence….i am so glad that i took a stand during the public hearing. it was not easy to do alone, but it looks like my voice was heard….very happy to see this done~