Nearly 100 people packed a conference room at the North Branford Town Hall for a forum held by state Rep. Vincent Candelora to explain gun control measures passed by the state legislature in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown last December.
The standing room only forum reflected the intense interest in the topic. Candelora took questions from the audience as he went through a slide presentation and made it clear several times that he had opposed the new laws.
The slide presentation, like the one used at a recent legislative forum in Durham, bore the logo CT GOP.
“I was on the losing side of this battle,” said Candelora, a Republican whose 86th district includes part of Durham. “Majority rules, unfortunately,” he later said.
While Candelora said several times that he wanted the forum to explain some of the complexities of the new bill, the politics of gun control were inescapable, especially from the crowd, which was clearly frustrated and angry at the new laws.
“Why are we being punished?” asked one member of the audience.
“If you’re a criminal you don’t need to worry about it,” said another.
Many of the questions showed both the complexity of the new law and the complexity of the gun market. The new law expands the number of banned assault weapons, bans the sale and transfer of magazines with more than a 10 round capacity, creates new requirements for long gun sales and loaded weapon storage, and creates a gun offender registry.
Many of the questions explored the fine print and implications of the law. What if someone with a grandfathered — but currently banned — assault weapon moves out of Connecticut and then back?
Some of the questions reflected the enormous array of guns available in the marketplace. If the adapter to attach an illegal silencer onto a gun is missing, is the gun itself still illegal? If a gun manufacturer has altered a magazine blocking it from accepting more than 10 bullets, it can be sold in Connecticut. What happens to the magazine owner if those alterations break?
Some of the questions Candelora or a gun enthusiast in the audience could answer, others were documented by an aide for follow up. While calling himself one of the legislators who had, in fact, read the bill, Candelora emphasized that he did not want to give legal advice or answer questions he was not sure of.
Several times, the politics of gun control pulled Candelora away from the legal details and once into a curious metaphor. “This was passed four months after Newtown. They struck quickly while the iron was still hot rather than allowing a cooling off period.” In some instances a “cooling off period” is required for gun purchases.
When asked where gun advocates could put pressure to overturn the new laws, Candelora responded that lawsuits currently in the courts offered the best chances to eliminate the bill.
“1776,” responded an audience member, and that was not the only time the idea of revolutionary use of the guns came up. When Candelora made a mocking reference to State Senator Ed Meyer’s idea to limit guns in Connecticut to those with one bullet capacity, an audience member said “As soon as the government uses those guns we’ll use those too.”
Nationally, gun control efforts failed at the federal level without a vote despite popularity in public opinion polls. Some form of increased gun control was passed in Connecticut and also Colorado, which witnessed both the Columbine and Aurora mass shootings.