State and local police told the governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Friday that it will be tough to create an effective law banning assault weapons because they are so hard to define.
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, where Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15, many have called for a ban on assault weapons, including Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe, a first responder on Dec. 14.
"If you have some common sense, you know it's a killing machine," Kehoe said to commission members. "In my mind, it has no purpose in our society other than killing.
Kehoe, along with Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy and South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed, spoke of the lethality and destructive nature of such weapons. But the police also posed a difficult question the legislature must answer if it is going to try to stregthen the state's existing ban on assault weapons: How to write an effective definition of the gun.
Police describe assault weapons as any semiautomatic firearm that has a given number of military-style features. State Trooper Joseph Delehanty said those military features are fairly easy for manufacturers to work around, and pointed out easy switches that manufacturers can make to get around the laws once they're written.
Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy, whose department responded to the Hartford Distributors, Inc. shooting in 2010, called for several added gun regulations.
"I think we should move to ban certain things that nobody would ever need in normal circumstances," he said, listing armor-piercing bullets as an example. He also said that in order for an assault weapons ban to be effective, the state needs a better working definition of an assault weapon.
"I sense that some common sense needs to be added to this equation. Right now we're in a situation where if you add this or subtract that from seemingly identical weapons it makes it legal or illegal,'' Montminy said. "We're quickly approaching the point where as long as it's painted green, we're good, if not, it's an assault weapon."
Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, who chairs the commission, acknowledged the trouble legislators will have in trying to fulfill Gov. Malloy's request.
"It's very difficult," said Jackson. "The honest truth is the manufactures will see the legislation and they will adjust their practices to continue operating. So it is incredibly hard to create something and you have to kind of understand that, but there are probably other ways you can go about reducing the potential lethality."
South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed also testified and said that 'assault weapons' weren't even the most lethal weapon that could be legally purchased in the state.
"You can own a fully automatic machine gun in the state of Connecticut. And until you're going to make that stop, what difference does it make," said Reed, who also said 'assault weapons' were particularly difficult to define. While a ban on these military-style weapons would be helpful, he said, there were other areas in which the state could strengthen its gun laws. Reed cited firearm permits as one such area.
The permitting process was mentioned by several police who testified to the panel Friday. Not only are gun permits not required for all firearms in the state, they said, but the system itself may be flawed.
Police said that those denied a permit may appeal to the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, who often overturn decisions.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times