Connecticut State Representative Stephen D. Dargan (D-New Haven), co-chairman of the state’s Public Safety Committee, has introduced a bill that would make public the names and addresses of gun permit holders in Connecticut under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Dargan’s bill is in response to the Dec. 14th shootings in the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT, and also occurs as a Westchester County, NY newspaper, the Journal News, is drawing widespread, nationwide anger for publishing a map with the names and addresses of gun permit holders. The bill, if passed, would reverse the state legislature’s decision, made nearly two decades ago, to protect gun permit holders' personal information from disclosure.
Connecticut’s General Assembly will return to Hartford next week, when a five-month session will begin, one in which gun control is expected to be a dominant issue. The state has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, yet is one of the most lenient toward serious crimes, having just repealed the death penalty last spring, and having passed, in 2011, a controversial early release amendment for some prisoners who demonstrate good behavior while incarcerated.
“Most things are FOIA-able now,” Dargan said in an interview Thursday. ”Go to the local city clerk’s office and you can find out where Steve Dargan owns property. I don’t know why a responsible gun owner is worried about whether a permit for a revolver is FOIA-able or not.”
Dargan added that in a “computer age” it is reasonable for people to want to know gun ownership information. “Maybe their kids are going over to Johnny Smith’s and maybe they want to see whether they have guns in the house.”
The bill has drawn criticism from both Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, and Richard Burgess, head of Connecticut Carry, a nonprofit group that advocates for citizens’ right to bear arms as provided for in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s a tool for criminals,” Crook said. “You don’t see the pistol permit holders in the newspapers. They just don’t break the law, normally.” Crook added that Adam Lanza, the presumed shooter in the Newtown massacre, broke many laws leading up to the shootings, starting with stealing his mother’s legally owned guns.
“I don’t have a solution,” said Crook. “But I don’t think releasing the names of handgun owners will have an effect…except to give some people, and I mean criminals, an option.”
Burgess also criticized the proposed legislation. “It’s crazy for someone to think this is a good idea,” he said. “I can only see harm that could come from it. Do we want to give criminals access to a database that tells you where every handgun in Connecticut is?”
Dargan said he introduced the bill because “people want to have a discussion” about guns after perhaps “the worst school tragedy in history, with kids who are just learning how to tie their shoes gunned down by a madman.”