Committee scraps gun auction bill

A state legislative panel has scrapped a controversial plan to auction off firearms seized in Connecticut crimes.

The Public Safety Committee opted not to act on the bill, which had been raised on behalf of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, before the committee’s deadline on Thursday.

“I didn’t have one legislator come to me and ask for this bill,” Sen. Andrea L. Stillman, D-Waterford, co-chairwoman of the committee, said today, adding she and many other legislators share the same fear.

“You auction off a gun and you wonder:  where could it show up next?” Stillman said. “Could it be used for another crime in the future?”

The Department of Public Safety also had expressed opposition to the bill, and they would have played a crucial role had it been enacted, Stillman said. The legislation would have allowed the state to auction off only firearms and ammunition not designated for destruction by the department.

State government used to raise revenue through such auctions until it ended the practice in 1992. And given that the measure was expected to raise thousands, not millions, of dollars per year, it was not essential in the context of an annual budget that currently exceeds $18.6 billion, Stillman said.

“We weren’t going to balance the budget by auctioning off firearms,” she added. “I think people felt it wasn’t worth the risk.”

Rep;. Christopher L. Caruso, D-Bridgeport, who testified against the measure earlier this month, predicted Monday that any effort to revive it as an amendment to other legislation would fail overwhelmingly.

“This bill should not even have been brought up for debate,” he said. “It is an insult to the victims of crimes and to law enforcement officials across the state. It’s offensive, frankly. If it would raise even $1, that’s $1 we do not want.”

A spokesman for the sportsmen’s coalition did not return a telephone call seeking comment on Monday.