Last year the state of Connecticut, still staggering from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, passed one of the toughest gun control laws in the country. More than 100 types of guns were banned, including all semiautomatic weapons. Anyone who had already purchased a now-prohibited gun could keep it if it was registered with the state by the end of 2013.
The reaction from the state’s residents seems to have been a heaving collective shrug. The Hartford Courant reports:
By the end of 2013, [Connecticut] state police had received 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates, Lt. Paul Vance said. An additional 2,100 that were incomplete could still come in.
That 50,000 figure could be as little as 15 percent of the rifles classified as assault weapons owned by Connecticut residents, according to estimates by people in the industry, including the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation. No one has anything close to definitive figures, but the most conservative estimates place the number of unregistered assault weapons well above 50,000, and perhaps as high as 350,000.
And that means as of Jan. 1, Connecticut has very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals — perhaps 100,000 people, almost certainly at least 20,000 — who have broken no other laws. By owning unregistered guns defined as assault weapons, all of them are committing Class D felonies.
This represents either one of the most sprawling acts of civil disobedience in Connecticut history or widespread ignorance about the state’s new gun regime. The Courant’s reporting suggests it’s a little of both, but with heavy emphasis on intentional law breaking: “On Thursday night, [State Sen. Tony] Guglielmo heard from a constituent at a meeting in Ashford, who said most of his friends with military-style rifles such as AR-15s had not come forward.” There is apparently an analogous disconnect between Washington and the gun owners of America, and Hartford and the gun owners of Connecticut.
The aforementioned Ashford is in the eastern third of the state. Connecticut, so often stereotyped as a bedroom community of louts driving BMWs, is mostly rural New England countryside, outside the noisy spheres of Boston and New York. A strong bloc of gun owners exists in the state, especially out east in towns like Ashford. Perhaps 100,000 of those gun owners—about 3 percent of the population—are now breaking Connecticut law. How the state’s technocrats intend to force that many residents of the Land of Steady Habits to part with their guns is beyond me. One criminal justice official suggested the scofflaws could be sent letters. That’ll show them.
More likely, Connecticut gun owners will remain defiant. J.D. Tuccille has a couple excellent articles about the long history of Prohibition-esque black markets that gun control has produced. Americans have a fabulous history of ignoring laws they deem invasive. Speaking of which, one Connecticut official is already comparing the gun bans to speed limits, in that they’re on the books but almost universally ignored. (The Courant quite sensibly scoffs at analogizing speeding tickets with felonies.) Maybe the lesson here is: Stupid, unenforceable laws should be stricken from the books. The average American unwittingly commits three felonies every day. Government officials should work to shorten our rap sheets, not extend them.