HARTFORD, CT – Today, state Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) voted in favor of Ethan’s Law and two other pieces of legislation to improve Connecticut’s gun safety laws. On Thursday, the Senate advanced three bills that would require guns to be stored in locked containers in homes with minors, prohibit the manufacturing of firearms without serial numbers and “ghost guns,” and require pistols and firearms in unattended motor vehicles to be locked and secured.
Ethan’s Law, House Bill 7218 (HB 7218), is named for Ethan Song, a 15-year-old from Guilford who died in 2018 when he was accidentally killed by an improperly stored gun at a friend’s house. The gun’s owner could not be prosecuted in relation to Song’s death because the gun was not loaded when it was stored. Sen. Cohen championed Ethan’s Law on the state Senate floor and thanked the Ethan’s parents, Kristin and Mike Song, for their courage and hard work in getting this legislation passed. HB 7218 passed by a bipartisan 34-2 vote.
“The passage of this legislation is a testament to the strength of Kristin and Mike Song,” said Sen. Cohen. “They speak to everyone who will listen to them about how to fix our broken gun safety laws. Due to their efforts and those of state Representative Sean Scanlon and state Senator Gary Winfield as well as the rest of my delegation, we have created a safer Connecticut for children and families. Sadly, the tragic story of Ethan Song is not an aberration, so I am thrilled we took a step in right direction to ensure the safety of our state’s young people.”
Current state law requires gun owners to secure loaded guns in locked containers if a minor under the age of 16 lives in their home. HB 7218 strengthens this law by requiring safe storage for all guns – loaded and unloaded – and additionally increases the age restriction from 16 years old to 18 years old. The legislation further makes negligent storage of a unloaded or loaded firearm a Class D felony and also requires the Connecticut Board of Education to develop a K-12 guide on gun safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2017, at least 2,696 children and adolescents were unintentionally shot after a gun was improperly stored; more than 100 were killed. Another 1,100 children took their own lives, many with unsecured firearms. The Harvard School of Public Health found that adolescents who die by suicide are twice as likely to have access to a gun at home than those who survive suicide attempts.
The rise of 3D printing and new technological possibilities has also led to the rise of untraceable handguns. With current kits available online, anyone, including those legally unable to possess guns, can make their own firearm with no serial number in about three hours out of a combination of plastic parts and metal parts. These guns have been seized in Connecticut towns including Torrington, Ridgefield and Waterbury and were used in California mass shootings in 2013 and 2017. In both California shootings, two individuals who could not legally own firearms each killed five people with “ghost guns” utilizing custom-made parts.
House Bill No. 7219, which passed 28-7, prohibits manufacturing a firearm without a serial number, manufacturing a plastic gun that can pass through security measures if its grips, stocks and magazines are taken off, and possessing, receiving or transferring an unfinished firearm frame or lower receiver lacking a serial number. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection would need to issue serial numbers for those parts.
The law provides exemptions for firearms produced by federally licensed manufacturers, antique firearms and firearms made before October 1, 2019 provided they are lawfully possessed. First-time offenses are class C felonies, but courts can suspend prosecution for first-time offenders if the violations are not serious and an offender is not likely to violate the law further. California and New Jersey previously passed similar legislation; New York and Washington state put “ghost gun” bans into place earlier this month. New Jersey’s law has seen success; at least 15 “ghost gun” companies ended sales in that state since it was enacted.
Safe Storage in Cars
House Bill No. 7223, which passed 20-15, concerns safe storage of firearms in cars and would prohibit storing a pistol in an unattended motor vehicle, unless that pistol is in the trunk, a locked glove box or a locked safe. It would make first-time offenses class A misdemeanors with further offenses being class D felonies. Law enforcement and certain security personnel receive exemptions, and the court can suspend prosecution for first-time offenders found unlikely to violate the law again.
This law comes as many cities in the United States see rising numbers of gun thefts from cars, seeing year-to-year increases of up to 40 percent; Atlanta sees up to 70 percent of all reported gun thefts being guns stolen from cars.
This legislation can reduce the up to 600,000 guns stolen each year and reduce the number of illegal guns on streets, also preventing tragedies. In Florida, a pistol stolen from an unlocked vehicle in 2014 was used to kill a police officer later that year; in Tennessee, a handgun stolen from a car in 1994 was traced to the murder of a teenage girl in Nashville in 2015.
Just this week, a Hartford man was indicted for stealing firearms from vehicles in Newington and Ellington, then selling those guns to other individuals.