Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at a press conference regarding gun control. Elizabeth Hamilton

Gov. Ned Lamont rolled out a list of multimillion dollar proposals on Monday that could add more state and local police in Connecticut, eliminate a backlog in the state’s court system, provide support for victims of crimes and reestablish a taskforce to help track down the sources of illegal weapons that are confiscated in the state.

Lamont, who is up for reelection this year, pitched the ambitious public safety agenda after months of complaints from Republican lawmakers, who have voiced concern about upticks in some crimes, like car thefts, over the course of the pandemic.

As part of the announcement, Lamont continued to emphasize that Connecticut’s overall crime rates remain lower than many other states in the country.

Crime data collected by the FBI for 2020 shows that Connecticut had the fourth-lowest number of violent crimes of any state in the country. And overall, violent crime in Connecticut decreased in 2020.

Even so, the scope of Lamont’s legislative agenda suggests that the governor is also looking to blunt any political attacks he may face from Republicans come November.

“While Connecticut remains one of the safest states in the nation with a violent crime rate less than half of the national rate, one shooting is one too many, and it is our responsibility to enact sensible policies that make our communities safer,” Lamont said in a prepared statement.

One of the primary objectives that Lamont laid out was setting up a new “Gun Tracing Task Force,” which would work with neighboring states to track down the source of illegal weapons.

That taskforce, according to Lamont’s proposal, would be funded by up to $2.5 million in federal relief funding that was given to the state by Congress.

But that’s only a small part of the overall spending.

Lamont’s administration is also preparing to advocate for $4 million for mobile crime labs and forensic analysis; $23 million to help clear court backlogs caused by the pandemic; $18 million for counseling and other services for crime victims, and another $19 million to pay for things like a statewide gun buyback program and training to help police better stem the flow of weapons into the state.

The Democratic governor is also seeking to modify some of the state’s gun laws to make it more difficult for people to obtain a permit to carry a gun.

One of those proposals includes automatically disqualifying anyone convicted of domestic violence from obtaining a state permit needed to carry such weapons.

Lamont also wants to change the state’s laws to prevent anyone from carrying a gun at polling places, in public buildings, on public transit or during any public demonstration.

While Republicans have been calling for a stronger emphasis on public safety, they made it clear Monday that gun control measures were not the type of policy change they were looking for out of the governor’s office.

Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, and Rep. Greg Howard, R-North Stonington, issued a joint statement on Monday afternoon criticizing Lamont and condemning the restrictions he wants to put in place for firearms.

“While lawful Connecticut citizens are, on an almost daily basis, being victimized by brazen criminals with little fear of punishment, the governor has chosen an aged election-year tactic of attacking law-abiding gun owners in an effort to distract from his administration’s utter failure to address criminal justice policies,” they said via a written statement.

The Republican leadership in the Senate also critiqued Lamont’s response.

Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and Sen. Paul Formica ,R-East Lyme, put out a statement publicly pressuring the governor to take up a package of public safety legislation the Republican minority proposed last year.

“This is about so much more than guns, although that is where the Governor wants the focus,” Kelly and Formica said in the statement. “It is about the permissive policies enacted by Democrats that enable violent repeat offenders to continue committing crimes.”

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Andrew BrownInvestigative Reporter

Andrew joined CT Mirror as an investigative reporter in July 2021. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Andrew was a reporter at newspapers in North Dakota, West Virginia and most recently South Carolina. He’s covered business, utilities, environmental issues, the opioid crisis, local government and two state legislatures. Do you have a story tip? Reach Andrew at 843-592-9958