While most of Monday’s mammoth Judiciary Committee hearing in Hartford was devoted to testimony about Gov. Ned Lamont’s package of anti-Second Amendment legislation, lawmakers and a few witnesses also spoke about a bill aimed at the repeat offenders who are committing an outsized portion of violent crimes in Connecticut.
That discussion was very revealing, particularly when it came to Sen. Gary Winfield, a Democrat who represents the city of New Haven and serves as co-chair of the Judiciary Committee. While Winfield has pushed gun control in the past, he’s also been cool to the idea of expanding the state’s current “assault weapons” ban to include those who lawfully purchased their firearms before the ban took effect.
“Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee that is crucial to the passage of gun laws, said he senses no appetite in the General Assembly to go back on the assurances made to gun owners.”
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) December 9, 2022
Winfield has also previously spoken in favor of things like community gun violence intervention programs and other non-law enforcement mechanisms to reduce violent crime by addressing root causes, and during Monday’s hearing he was extremely critical of the bills backed by Connecticut’s mayors, which would create the new (and vaguely-worded) crime of “serious firearm offense” and allow for repeat offenders to be held on higher bond and immediate revocation of parole or probation if arrested for a gun-related offense. In fact, Winfield touched a third-rail for Democrats and the gun control lobby, noting that many of the guys illegally carrying guns in New Haven are doing so not because they’re violent criminals, but because they want to protect themselves.
In sharp exchanges with [Hartford Mayor Luke] Bronin and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, Winfield complained that the bill was too broadly drawn and would create legal jeopardy for the many men who carry illegal firearms for their own protection.
“What person on the streets of Hartford who’s spending time out there, or who was in a neighborhood who used to spend time out there, doesn’t have an illegal firearm?” Winfield asked Bronin.
Bronin seemed incredulous.
“Senator, I don’t know how to answer that,” Bronin replied. “There are many people in my community who are not carrying illegal firearms.”
“Not everybody in your community,” Winfield conceded, but the ones “who might be out on the block, as we say, who might be doing things we don’t want them to do, but are not the people that are shooting up the community. We know those people. I would assume the mayor of Hartford would know what I’m talking about.”