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Connecticut’s tribal police forces could soon be able to issue pistol permits

Shaun Fennell

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe has backed a bill that would allow Connecticut’s two tribal police forces to issue temporary pistol permits.

State Representative Greg Howard, a bill sponsor and the ranking Republican member of the state’s Public Safety and Security Committee, said it’s time Connecticut fully recognizes the sovereignty of its tribal nations and the professionalism of their police departments.

“Knowing that both police departments meet the same qualifications as the chiefs, who ultimately sign those temporary permits. They meet the same qualifications that the Ledyard chief does, the Stonington chief, or the Groton chief or the Norwich chief,” said Howard, who also serves as a police officer in Stonington.

“I’m very familiar with the process and very familiar with all of the laws surrounding it, the processes surrounding it,” he continued. “My colleagues, I think, lend credit to me when it comes to that and I think with limited opposition on the Democratic side, you know as they continue to push for the tribe’s sovereignty, etc., I think it’s got a really good chance.”

Howard said the bill would put both tribes — the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes — on an equal footing with Connecticut cities and towns in issuing 60-day temporary pistol permits to tribal residents living on tribal land. The tribes would also be responsible for background checks and adhere to Connecticut’s strict gun laws.

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which owns Foxwoods Casino, does not allow guns inside of their gambling facilities, according to its gaming procedures and policy. No handguns are allowed on the Mohegan territory in southeastern Connecticut. The tribe told The Day of New London that it has no plans to start permitting pistol licenses.

Both tribes took over policing duties on tribal land, including their casinos, from state police in 2014.

“I think it’s just a loophole in the legislation when those police departments were organized in accordance with [the state’s policing standards] that the wording in the legislation never caught up to facilitate that,” he said.

If advanced by the committee, the bill would still need to be voted on by the full state General Assembly. Democratic legislative leadership have yet to signal whether this would be a priority before the 2022 legislative session that ends in early May.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.