NRA fighting proposed change to CT law on carrying guns

The National Rifle Association has taken aim at a proposed change to Connecticut’s gun laws that would make it easier for law enforcement officials to ask to see the permits of those carrying guns in public.

To stop the legislation, the NRA’s powerful lobbying arm on Monday asked supporters to flood members of the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee with comments opposing the change and to show up at the panel’s hearing on the legislation Thursday.

“This bill infringes on the rights of those who choose to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, while doing nothing to deter criminals,” the NRA Institute for Legislative Action said.

The House co-chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee, Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, said he wanted to modify Connecticut’s open-carry law after police officers in his district and in Bridgeport encountered resistance from individuals who were asked by officers for their permits.

Under current law, those carrying weapons in public must also carry their gun permits, and law enforcement officials may ask to see those permits if there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal conduct.

The individuals who did not show the police officers their permits argued there was no reason to suspect them of criminal activity.

To avoid that type of impasse, the phrase “reasonable suspicion of a crime” would be eliminated under the new bill, HB 5408.

“We’re just trying to get clarification on that language,” Dargan said. “Nobody is against open carry, but when a police officer asks you for a driver’s license, you are required to show a license…so what’s the big deal here?”

The legislation would also allow police officers to ask for permits of those they suspect of carrying a weapon. That, said NRA spokesman Catherine Mortensen, would infringe on the right to carry a concealed weapon in the state.

To Dargan, if a police officer approaches, “just show your permit to carry.”

“Law enforcement officers have to make a lot of split-second decisions,” he said.

To NRA’s Mortensen called Dargan’s bill “blatantly unconstitutional.”

“This is just another attempt by anti-gun lawmakers in Connecticut to harass and intimidate law-abiding gun owners in the state. In this case, they are trying to create a de facto ban on open-carry laws,” she said.

That, Mortensen said, would infringe on the right to carry a co weapon in the state.

Dargan said his legislative assistant told him his office had received about 300 emails opposed to the legislation, and he expects even more pressure from the NRA and its supporters because open-carry laws “are issues that really rile people up.”

He said he wrote his bill  so it would be “as broad as possible right now,” but is open to compromise. Dargan said he hoped to hear from a broad array of people, including those representing the NRA, at Thursday’s hearing.

“There has to be a common-sense approach to this,” he said.

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