OLR Amended Bill Analysis

sSB 1166 (File 541, as amended by Senate "A")*

An Act Concerning the State Permit to Carry Pistols or Revolvers and State Compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System

SUMMARY: This bill makes extensive changes in the state's firearms laws. It eliminates the 2-week waiting period for handgun transactions and makes many substantive and procedural changes to the laws governing the sale and purchase of firearms. It allows seizures of firearms under certain circumstances. It makes individuals strictly liable, under certain circumstances, if their firearm is used to injure or kill another person.

The bill makes it illegal for a person convicted of any felony, rather than just specified felonies, to possess a long gun or electronic defense weapon. It broadens the circumstances under which nonresidents can carry handguns in and through Connecticut without a state permit. It eliminates local permits for carrying dangerous weapons and makes related changes. It also modifies the law governing transportation of such weapons.

*Senate Amendment "A" strikes the original bill (File 541) which (1) eliminated the local handgun carrying permit and required anyone wanting to carry a handgun to obtain a state permit, (2) required law enforcement authorities to confiscate any permit possessed illegally, and (3) increased the state handgun permit fee.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 1999

FURTHER EXPLANATION

Purchase and Sale of Firearms

General Provisions. Existing law requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to establish a state data base, enabling anyone who sells or transfers handguns to get immediate information on whether eligibility certificates or permits required by law are valid.

The bill requires anyone who sells or transfers guns to contact DPS to access the database and receive an authorization number for the sale, transfer, or delivery of any firearm. It exempts from this provision transactions involving: (1) antique firearms made before 1898 and replicas of such antiques if they use rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition no longer available in the U.S and not readily available in ordinary commerce; (2) transactions between federal firearm licensees; (3) transfers of firearms to and from gunsmiths for repairs; and (4) purchases by or sales to any U.S. government agency, the State of Connecticut, or any local government.

The bill states that gun dealers may not be held civilly liable for sales or transfers of firearms to ineligible people or for refusing to sell or transfer firearms to eligible people, if they relied in good faith on the information provided to them by the system and their action was not unreasonable or reckless.

The bill requires DPS to establish days and hours during which people can make inquiries of the database, taking into consideration the normal hours of retail firearm businesses. The bill makes the DPS the "point of contact" (POC) for initiating the national instant criminal background checks system (NICS) that the federal law requires for all firearm sales by gun dealers to individuals. In practice, DPS is already the POC.

The bill makes it illegal for a retail business whose principal business is not the selling of firearms (e.g. K Mart) to employ anyone to sell firearms unless (1) the person is at least age 18, (2) a national criminal history record check shows that he has not been convicted of any felony or any other violation prohibiting handgun possession under state law; and (3) the person has successfully completed a DPS-approved course in firearms safety and statutory procedures relating to the sale of firearms. An employer is civilly liable for up to $10,000 for a violation. The attorney general must institute the action.

Handguns. The bill (1) eliminates the 2-week waiting period for handgun transactions; (2) requires handgun vendors to obtain an authorization number from the DPS commissioner; and (3) requires the commissioner to perform a NICS check on all handgun transactions, and (4) explicitly requires him to deny sales to ineligible people.

The bill eliminates a requirement for anyone selling handguns to send the purchase application to the commissioner and the police chief or borough warden or first selectman, as appropriate, of the applicant's town. It eliminates the requirement for the commissioner or local official to notify the vendor of any reason why the applicant should not possess a handgun. The bill requires the transferor or vendor to ensure that the application is properly completed. Under current law the transferor or vendor must keep the application for at least five years; under the bill he must keep it for 20 years or until he goes out of business. The bill requires the application to be available for inspection during normal business hours by law enforcement officials.

The bill also (1) eliminates "occupation" from the information that a person must provide on the receipt for a handgun; (2) allows the transferor or vendor to transmit receipts to DPS electronically, instead of just by first class mail; and (3) requires the local police or town official in the transferee's town, instead of the town where the actual transaction takes place, to be notified of the transaction.

The bill reinstates a requirement (repealed by PA 98-129) for $10 of each state handgun permit fee (currently $35) to be credited within 30 days to DPS for issuing permits.

Other Weapons. The bill conforms state law to federal law by allowing Connecticut residents to buy long guns (rifles or shotguns) in any state. Under current law, Connecticut residents who want to buy long guns out of state may buy them only in Massachusetts, New York, or Rhode Island. But federal law allows people to buy them at a federal firearm licensee's business place in any state. As under current state law, the sale must comply with applicable state laws in the buyer's state and in the state where the sale occurs.

Giving False Information. The bill increases the penalty for giving false information in connection with the purchase, sale, delivery, or other transfer of a handgun. Under current law, the penalty is a prison term of up to three years, a fine of up to $500, or both. The bill makes it a class D felony punishable by one to five years imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both. It also makes it a class D felony to give false statements or information in connection with long gun transactions.

Seizure of Firearms

The court in the geographical area where the person named in the warrant resides must hold a hearing within 14 days after its execution. The hearing must determine whether the seized firearms should be returned or continue to be held by the state. The state has the burden to prove all material facts at the hearing by clear and convincing evidence. If the court finds that this evidence shows the person to be an imminent risk of injury to himself or others it may order the stay to continue to hold firearms for up to one year, otherwise it must order them returned. If the court finds imminent risk of injury, it must notify the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services which may take appropriate action allowed by laws establishing its jurisdiction over people with mental illnesses.

Someone whose firearms have been seized, or his legal representative, may transfer them, as allowed by law, to any person eligible to possess them. If notified in writing by the person or his legal representative, and the transferee, the head of the state agency holding the firearms must deliver them to the transferee within 10 days of the notice.

The bill makes anyone who is subject to a firearms seizure order ineligible to receive a pistol or revolver carry permit or eligibility certificate. It makes anyone who knows that he is subject to such an order and who possesses a pistol or revolver guilty of the criminal possession of such weapons, a class D felony.

Liability

Existing law prohibits anyone from (1) transferring a handgun to an individual prohibited from possessing it and (2) purchasing any firearm intending to transfer it to an individual he knows or has reason to believe is prohibited from receiving a firearm. The bill makes anyone who transfers a firearm to a person he knows is prohibited from possessing it strictly liable for damages for any injuries or death resulting from its use. This means that the person or can be held liable without any showing of negligence or wrongful intent.

Existing law prohibits people from storing or keeping a loaded firearm on premises under their control if they know, or reasonably should know, that a minor under age 16 can it without his parent's or guardian's permission. A person is guilty of criminal negligence, a class D felony, if his failure to store a firearm properly results in a minor under age 16 using it to kill himself or someone else. The bill makes him strictly liable for damages. Neither existing law nor the bill's penalty applies if (1) the person locks his firearms in a place that a reasonable person considers secure or (2) the person carries it upon his person or close enough to readily retrieve and use.

Illegal Possession of Weapons

The bill makes it illegal to possess long guns or electronic defense weapons after a conviction for any felony, instead of just some felonies--thus making this standard the same as for handgun possession. Under current law, the following cannot possess long guns--anyone convicted of:

Under existing law, within two business days after any event that makes a person ineligible to possess handguns, he must (1) surrender any handguns he possesses to the DPS commissioner or (2) transfer them to an eligible person. The bill requires the commissioner, with the chief state's attorney and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, to develop a protocol to ensure that the guns are surrendered or transferred.

Carrying Handguns

The bill broadens the circumstances under which nonresidents may carry handguns in Connecticut without a Connecticut permit. Under current law, they may do so when at or taking part in competitions or attending meetings or exhibitions of gun collectors. The bill allows them to do so also when taking a gun for repairs or when going to or during a formal handgun training program at a locally approved or permitted training facility. Under current law, the nonresident must have a gun permit or license from another state or jurisdiction. Under the bill, he must be permitted to have and carry guns in the state where he lives.

It generally redefines these actions as "transporting" rather than "carrying" a handgun and defines the term as transporting a pistol or revolver unloaded and, if being transported in a motor vehicle, in a place not readily or directly accessible from the passenger compartment. If the vehicle has no passenger compartment, the handgun must be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

The bill allows people to carry handguns without a permit through Connecticut for lawful purposes if (1) they are not otherwise prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms and (2) they are transporting them between states where they can legally possess and carry them. They cannot use, carry, sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer the guns while in the state. The guns must be kept unloaded and the guns and any ammunition cannot be readily or directly accessible from the passenger compartment. If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the passenger compartment, the guns and any ammunition must be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

Carrying Other Dangerous Weapons

Current law, with exceptions, prohibits anyone from carrying the following dangerous weapons on their person without a permit. Dangerous weapons are: slung shot, air rifle, BB gun, black jack, sandbag, metal or brass knuckles, dirk knife, switch knife, knife with automatic spring release blade bigger than 1½ inches, other knives with a blade bigger than 4 inches, martial arts or electronic defense weapon, and any other dangerous or deadly weapon. Peace officers and people taking any of these weapons to or from a repair place or carrying them concealed when moving household goods do not require a permit. The permit must be issued by the chief elected official or police chief of the municipality. With the exception of martial arts weapons, the permit is only valid in that municipality.

The bill continues to allow people to take a knife to or from a repair place or carry it concealed when moving household goods, but they cannot have any of the other weapons in these circumstances.

The bill eliminates the requirement that anyone selling dangerous weapons must inform the purchaser's local police chief, borough warden or town first selectman of the purchaser's name and address within 24 hours of the delivery.

The bill states that it should not be construed to prevent the carrying of a BB gun on a person's private property or to or from private property if the property owner authorizes the use.

Transporting Dangerous Weapons

BACKGROUND

Legislative History

The Senate referred the original bill (File 541) to the Planning and Development, Appropriations, Government Administration and Elections, and Judiciary committees on May 6, 19, 27, and June 1, respectively. Each of the committees favorably reported the bill.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Safety Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

22

Nay

0

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

40

Nay

0

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

15

Nay

0

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

45

Nay

0

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

14

Nay

0

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

28

Nay

1