Forecast 2014: Gun Owners Worry About Enforcement Of Laws

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Rachel Baird
Rachel Baird

However, one portion of chapter 943 of the Connecticut General Statutes exempts a firearm that is not banned by name, but still has the characteristics of an assault weapon, from the prohibitions and registration requirements, as long as the firearm was manufactured prior to Sept. 13, 1994.

In an Oct. 11, 2013 letter to attorney David Clough, Reuben Bradford, who was commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection until he retired in late December, opined that every firearm which would otherwise qualify as an assault weapon is exempt from the prohibitions and registration requirements if the firearm was manufactured prior to Sept. 13, 1994.

But that's not correct. If the firearm is banned by name, then its manufacture date is immaterial. The Sept. 13, 1994 date applies only to exempt assault weapons banned solely because of their characteristics.

Firearms owners who have relied on Bradford and the Firearms Unit for direction in complying with the new gun laws risk mandatory jail time. On Dec. 22, a detective in the unit issued a partial retraction of the commissioner's opinion, and so the State Police may finally be on the right track.

Still, what the last two months have shown is that firearms owners cannot trust what the Department of Public Safety says and that courts will not care where private citizens got their information and why they didn't follow the law.

If the property were any other than firearms, the ambiguity in the law would inure to the benefit of the law-abiding individual. But because the property is firearms, the only sure thing is that if firearms owners are arrested it will mean a high bond and front-page news.

Criminal attorneys will need to familiarize themselves thoroughly with this issue.

Targets And Scapegoats

The stock market crash of 2008 was not the cause of the chaos in the financial sector. The chaos existed long before the crash. Bernie Madoff might have gone on profiting for years. But the market crashed. The quicksand on which his success was built became apparent, and Madoff was exposed.

Likewise, the Newtown shootings and the heavy-handed gun control legislation that followed did not cause the current chaos and confusion among the state's firearms owners. Rather, those developments have only served to expose enforcement problems that have been lingering for years.

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