Washington – Lawmakers in Connecticut – still stunned from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – are moving forward with legislation that could make public the names and addresses of 170,000 handgun permit holders in the state.
The measure, introduced by state Rep. Stephen Dargan, is the latest effort to clamp down on guns in Connecticut. If passed, the bill would reverse a 20-year decision by state lawmakers to keep the personal information confidential. The legislation would make the information fair game under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Dargan told FoxNews.com on Friday the measure was not intended to pit gun control activists and pro-gun groups against each other. Instead, it’s “to get a broader discussion going on gun issues and mental health in the state.”
Critics say being able to obtain the names and addresses of gun permit holders is an invasion of privacy, but others argue that people in the community have the right to know who owns a gun and who does not.
In December, an upstate New York newspaper came under fire for publishing the names and addresses of gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties. The story inspired heated reactions among readers and gun groups, who traded jabs by posting personal information about the newspaper’s employees online.
The actions highlight a growing backlash against gun owners after a string of shooting in the last five years, which includes the massacres at Virginia Tech and at a Colorado movie theatre.
Since the Newtown, Conn., shooting last month, gun owners across the country say they have been vilified and ostracized. Many argue lawmakers are using what happened in Newtown to advance their own political agenda, but Dargan says it’s not true.
“Obviously, something needs to be done,” he said. “I want to make sure we look at all the ways we can prevent another horrific shooting from happening.”
Dargan’s bill is one of many expected to be brought up and debated in statehouses across the country. He says while his proposals are “middle of the road,” he’s already gotten calls and emails from gun advocates telling him to back down.
“This is the least invasive bill that’s going to come up this year,” he said. “We need to open up dialogue in the state. Let’s take a peek at the issue, see what works and see what doesn’t.”
State Sen. Martin Looney introduced a measure that would make it illegal for anyone convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor or are under a court-ordered restraining or protective order from buying bullets. The idea is already being criticized by gun groups in the state.
“A gun without ammunition is only a club,” Looney has said. “We really need to restrict access to ammunition.” Calls to Looney’s office for additional comment were not returned.
Some gun owners say that the federal law that bans the sale of ammunition to felons is a strong enough filter.
Rich Burgess, president of Connecticut Carry, said Looney’s plan “has nothing to do with stopping these kinds of madmen from committing heinous acts” and has said he is “dumbfounded” by these bills.
Prior to the tragedy at Sandy Hook, which left 20 children and six school employees dead, gun control was not a particularly polarizing topic in the state. The firearms manufacturing business in Connecticut had thrived in a state that boasts some of the strongest gun control laws in the country.