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According to the Journal Inquirer newspaper in Manchester, Connecticut, the state is ready to send letters to 214 resident rifle owners warning them to destroy, sell, or transfer certain rifles and magazines that are now illegal to possess there.
Those who fail to do so could face serious criminal penalties. Owning an unregistered “assault weapon” (as labeled by the state) is a Class D felony.
Once people realize they can’t keep the guns and magazines, “they’re going to get rid of them,” Michael P. Lawlor, the undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said.
The Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Public Protection initially set a Jan. 1, 2014, registration date for gun owners to declare firearms and ammunition.
Scott DeVico, a legislative program manager and spokesman for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said hand counts indicate that gun owners registered 50,016 assault weapons and declared 38,290 ammunition magazines.
However, 266 rifle registrations and 506 magazine declarations made it to the state with postmarks after Jan. 1.
The state has said it won’t immediately prosecute those who missed the deadline, but it isn’t ignoring the information on the late declarations. Information on those forms can be the basis for further enforcement efforts by police — the upcoming letters being one step.
The warning letters are the first public effort by the state to try to enforce the law, much of which U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello ruled was legal in January.
However, many AR-15 owners in Connecticut didn’t attempt to register their rifles with the state or declare their standard-capacity magazines when new gun laws went into effect.
The Hartford Courant newspaper reported the most conservative estimates place the number of unregistered rifles and magazines well above 50,000, and perhaps as high as 350,000.
A Feb. 14 editorial in the newspaper said, “But the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.”