Residents in Connecticut were confronted with the reality that their constitutionally protected rights are not inalienable as they stood in long lines to register their firearms. The registration is mandated by the state’s new gun law set to go into effect on January 1, 2014.
According to WFSB-TV, there was a “long-line of people” outside the Public Safety Building in Middletown, Connecticut all day December 26 to register their semi-authomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Talking Points Memo reports, “Under a wide-ranging gun control law, passed earlier this year in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, gun owners have until Tuesday to submit the paperwork.” The new law also prohibits the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Once registered, the large-capacity magazines can be kept at owners' homes, or taken to licensed shooting ranges or gun clubs where they may be filled.
The law also creates a statewide registry that tracks parolees whose crimes involved weapons, USA Today reports.
The mass numbers reporting to the headquarters of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) in the final days of 2013 was predicted by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Michael Lawlor.
"It sounds like a lot of these folks were holding off on doing it in anticipation of a potential decision or something," Lawlor observed, referring to pending legal challenges to the state law over the law’s expansions of the definition of assault weapons in Connecticut to include more banned weapons. “One thing is clear,” he added, “If you haven’t registered it, on the following day, it is completely illegal contraband.”
Though most were complacent over the new law, some were overheard complaining that it trampled on their rights.
“I understand why they’re doing it, but I don’t think it’s constitutional,” resident Scott Boccio told WFSB-TV as he was registering his guns.
Charles Gillette, who was registering magazines, told the news station that he would have a problem with it if the state were trying to ban the magazines or firearms, but added, “If they want to just know where they are, that’s fine with me.”
Still, even as most of those registering their firearms seemed to accept the new mandate, most did not seem confident that the law will serve to reduce gun violence.
“If people are going to do things illegally, they’re not going to be here registering their gun,” Jared Krajewski, another resident registering firearms, asserted.
"Unless you change everything, and make it England and take everything away, I don't see how they're going to stop it [gun violence]," Boccio said.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League is one of the organizations participating in a legal challenge to the new law, and in the meantime it has been working to remind gun owners about the impending deadline to register their weapons.
"Many people are still not aware of the law itself, or the actual date of implementation," President Scott Wilson said. "While CCDL wholeheartedly believes that this law is unconstitutional, we want to make sure that law-abiding gun owners do not become felons on Jan. 1."
Wilson is particularly concerned that many gun owners may not realize that they are affected by the law because many handgun magazines and semi-automatic rifle magazines with a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition were sold standard along with guns prior to April 4, the last day those weapons could be legally purchased in Connecticut, with exceptions only for the military and law enforcement officers.
And a failure to generate the correct information to the impacted gun owners has resulted in significant lines. "People don't realize the entire form must be filled out completely," advised state police Lt. Paul Vance. "And if it requires a notary, it should be notarized before coming here. That's what's causing the massive line."
Agencies in Connecticut are working diligently to make the registration process as simple as possible.
Talking Points Memo observes, “Notaries have been stationed at the DESPP headquarters to assist applicants. To obtain an assault weapon certificate, gun owners need to submit proof such as a valid sales receipt that they purchased the weapon before April 4. They can submit a sworn affidavit that must be notarized.”
But advocates of the new law admit that they are ultimately hopeful that it will prompt some to turn in their magazines.
"I think over time, there's just going to be fewer and fewer of those in circulation," Lawlor said.
Concerns over the Connecticut gun laws have provoked a spike in the number of applications for handgun permits all over Connecticut, including Newtown. UPI reports:
Statewide, the number of new pistol permits issued by state police increased 78 percent between March and September. The applications began to spike in March, which the Courant said reflected the lag time after applications were submitted to local authorities, and then peaked in July.
The backlog of applications in Newtown caused the police chief to ask City Hall last month for funds to hire a temporary clerk to process the paperwork.
"Many people expressed their concerns even before the shooting that gun laws were going to change and there would be tighter restrictions on getting a gun permit," said Robert Berkins, records manager for the Newtown police.
Following the tragic shooting in Newtown, residents reportedly turned in 183 permit applications between January and May, marking a 110-percent increase from the same time period in 2012.