The General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee is considering H.B. 6200, a bill that would allow police officers to demand to see one’s pistol permit if they “observe” a pistol or revolver.
Advocates of the bill say that this is a common sense measure to keep the public safe, but opponents contend that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, an advocate, opined, “It’s a limited intrusion that would pass constitutional muster.”
While opponents of the bill like E. Jonathan Hardy of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League said, “This bill allows police to stop, seize, and question people for no other reason than doing [something] that is lawful.”
The problem with this bill is that it targets only the law-abiding. The purpose of this bill is squarely to punish legal behavior — behavior that the advocates of this bill dislike.
Criminals do not openly carry for the simple reason that it will draw attention to them, from the public and the police alike.
A commonly cited example throughout the public hearing, which was held on Wednesday, March 15, was that of Noah Harpham of Colorado Springs. Connecticut Against Gun Violence members claim that Harpham was openly carrying and went on to kill three people.
The facts, however, tell a different story: Harpham was not merely carrying a gun, he was holding it, along with a can of gasoline, walking from house to house, and, he shattered a window.
Under the current law, the police would have had the reasonable suspicion necessary to investigate Harpham. Holding, or brandishing, a gun, is reasonable suspicion of disorderly conduct.
The proponents of this bill have yet to cite a real example to back their claim.
This bill will not provide clarity, because the law is already clear: An officer must have reasonable suspicion of a crime to stop and detain a person. Police officers work under this standard every day; this is nothing new. And the only “officer protection” this bill will provide is from lawsuits over illegal stops.
Officers in Connecticut have been caught on video claiming that it is illegal to record them, then conspiring to fabricate evidence and falsify charges. Will the Judiciary Committee protect those officers, too?
If officers in Connecticut are really this perplexed about a standard that they have been working under for decades, then imagine how they might interpret the word, “observe.” This bill could be used to harass anyone, depending on the mood of an officer at any given time.
The Judiciary Committee should, energetically, squash H.B. 6200, because, as Chief State’s Attorney Kane reminded us, reasonable suspicion is the standard recognized by courts.
If you take that standard away, then anyone could be stopped at any time for any reason — or no reason.
Michael Picard lives in South Windsor.
Visit this page to review all the public hearing testimony offered on the open carry permit bill.