CT bill targets big gun buys, 'straw-purchasers'

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State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport

Linda Conner Lambeck /

When Connecticut lawmakers were sent home last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, started a spreadsheet to manage the flood of ideas for new legislation he received from constituents.

One of those ideas evolved into Senate Bill 125, introduced last week, that would limit gun buyers to one firearm purchase per month.

“There are certainly more radical gun proposals out there,” Haskell said during a phone interview. “I view this as one of those common sense proposals that wouldn’t actually impact the vast majority of gun owners in Connecticut.”

In particular, Haskell said he hopes the bill, if passed, would help crack down on so-called “straw-purchasers” — people who legally purchase guns and sell them to those who are not permitted to have them.

Haskell said he believes a recent series of articles published by Hearst Connecticut Media investigating the state’s gun death data might boost the bill’s chances.

“I think it definitely gives it a better shot," Haskell said. "I think that series of articles produced a lot of discussion, and hopefully, will lead to passing this bill.”

The bill, as written, would only apply to handguns — pistols and revolvers — and not long guns like rifles and shotguns.

Under legislation passed in the wake of Sandy Hook, Connecticut residents must have either a valid pistol permit or eligibility certificate to purchase a gun. But Haskell argued those rules don’t stop someone with a permit and who can pass the required background check “to go in and buy five, 10, 30 handguns” at a time.

But the state’s most prominent gun rights group said it won’t support the legislation.

“There’s a lot of unintended consequences that come out of bills like this,” said Holly Sullivan, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. “To get right to the point, this is not something we would support.”

Sullivan said the bill could make gun owners hesitant to store their firearms with a friend or family member if they take a break from the sport — such as concerns about their mental health.

She said the bill could be difficult for collectors purchasing rare handguns out of state. As for straw purchases, she argued many of the guns that wind up being used in crimes are stolen.

Police in recent weeks have warned of guns being stolen out of cars, as the state has seen a rise in motor vehicle thefts and burglaries.

It’s also unclear how the bill will fair in the legislature.

Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, who serves as House chairman on the Judiciary Committee, said he was “personally supportive,” of the bill, but said the committee’s leadership “has not yet decided which bills to bring forward for a public hearing this year.”

Haskell said he would be open to compromise on the bill, after putting forward a similar proposal in 2019. He said he could see expanding the limit on purchases to 24 or 36 guns a year.

Haskell said he has received some pushback over the bill, mostly from people outside of his district.

“That’s to be expected anytime you propose anything to do with firearms,” he said.