Last month, Staples High School in Westport went into lockdown after it was discovered that a student had expressed a desire to execute a mass shooting. That student was later arrested and no one was harmed.
It was enough, however, to prompt town officials and Westport residents to come out in force at the General Assembly’s public hearing on Friday in Hartford on two gun control bills.
One bill would ban bump stocks, the devices that can make semi-automatic weapons mimic machine guns. The second would regulate untraceable ghost guns, partially assembled firearms that can be purchased online without a background check.
Westport Selectwoman Melissa Kane, a Democrat, says local officials are doing what they can to prevent these kinds of shootings but they need help from the state.
“Put simply, ghost guns are workarounds to the laws we already have in place in Connecticut to regulate what types of guns are legal and who can own them. Anybody can make and purchase these firearms. Anyone can use them. The very real threat to public safety that the possibility that these unregulated guns can create was made painfully clear to us just weeks ago.”
Republican State Representative Arthur O’Neill of Southbury said Connecticut already has a law that could prevent mass shootings. He said the red flag law allows law enforcement to remove firearms from someone who is identified as an immediate threat to themselves or others.
“What happened in Parkland could have been stopped if this law we have in Connecticut had been on the books. What happened in Sandy Hook could have been stopped if someone had picked up the phone and made a call to the police.”
O’Neill said the existing red flag law strikes the right balance between the rights of gun owners and the right of society to protect itself from acts of violence.
The hearing comes a day before gun violence protests planned worldwide in response to last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Later on Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a rule that would effectively ban bump stocks by classifying them as machine guns.