The Connecticut gun law passed in the wake
of the Sandy Hook school massacre
is reportedly being ignored by many state residents, leaving thousands of AR-15s and other assault rifles unregistered.
The law requires that all residents who own so-called assault rifles, such as AR-15s, register the firearms with the state by the end of 2013. As of the end of last year, the Connecticut State Police received 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates. An additional 2,100 applications have yet to be turned in.
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As significant as the nearly 50,000 registrations appear, they likely represent approximately 15 percent of the actual number of Connecticut residents who own so-called assault weapons, The Hartford Courant reported
, citing estimates by people in the industry, including the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Acknowledging that there are no definitive figures on the number of semi-automatic rifles in Connecticut, the local newspaper reported that there are more than 50,000 and possibly as many as 350,000 unregistered assault weapons in the state.
Those who are found to be in possession of an unregistered assault rifle are committing a Class D felony under Connecticut state law.
"I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register," Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, the ranking GOP senator on the legislature's public safety committee, told the Courant. "If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don't follow them, then you have a real problem."
It is unclear how Connecticut officials will proceed in enforcing the newly minted law, considering 20,000 to 100,000 residents might be in violation of the statue.
According to Mike Lawlor, Connecticut’s top official in criminal justice, the state could send residents who are in violation a letter to remind them that they must register their firearms. Such a campaign could increase the state’s registration numbers significantly, since many might not have realized that they had to register rifles by the end of 2013, Lawlor added.
However, Lawlor said that as of today, such unregistered guns are now illegal.
"Like anything else, people who violate the law face consequences. . . That's their decision. The consequences are pretty clear. . . There's nothing unique about this," Lawlor said. "The goal is to have fewer of these types of weapons in circulation."
Many who own AR-15s and other similar semi-automatic rifles fear that registration is the first step towards prohibition and eventual government acquisition.
The guns have already been banned in Connecticut’s neighbor, New York State, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo weeks after the Sandy Hook Massacre announced sweeping gun control legislation that prohibited the sale of so-called assault rifles and required all such weapons be registered with the State Police by April 15, 2014.
In the eyes of many Second Amendment advocates, such legislation in Connecticut and New York was a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy and aimed purely at calming the fears of a public with little understanding of firearms, rather than actually reducing gun violence. Semi-automatic rifles are rarely used to commit violent acts, whereas handguns, which remain legal, are responsible for the vast majority of shooting deaths in the U.S.
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The AR-15 was one of four weapons recovered from Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, a mentally-ill 20-year-old who killed his mother before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, and killing 20 children and six teachers with an arsenal of weapons that also included a bolt-action rifle, shotgun and Glock 20 handgun.
Despite the assault on AR-15s from gun control advocates
, the weapon remains the most sought after rifle in the United States, with 50 to 60 percent of all rifle sales in the United States in recent years being AR-15s, federal figures show, the Courant reported.
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