BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – City and state leaders gathered at the Bridgeport Police Officers Memorial on Wednesday to call for passage of state legislation clarifying rules for openly carrying a firearm.
Mayor Joe Ganim, Police Chief AJ Perez, state Sen. Ed Gomes (D-23), state Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-129) and several police officers said House Bill No. 5408 would require anyone openly carrying a firearm to produce his or her permit if asked by a law enforcement officer.
“We have so many illegal guns on the streets of our community that unfortunately we can no longer assume someone carrying a gun in public is doing so legally,” Ganim said. “Our officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us, this is the least we can do to help them. I urge our General Assembly to pass this bill before the session ends next week.”
Police across the state have called for clarification of the carry permit rules after video surfaced in January of a man openly carrying a firearm in a Subway sandwich shop in Bridgeport. When an officer responding to a suspicious activity call asked to see the man’s permit, the man challenged the officer’s right to demand that he show a permit and he was let go.
Under existing law, a police officer can ask to see a permit only if he or she has reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.
Officer Ricardo Lopez, the officer in the video, said he believes changing the law would make the rules of enforcement more clear.
“This is not about taking rights away,” he said.
Two men wearing visible handguns at their waists stood in protest Wednesday.
“This bill is state-sponsored harassment,” said Michael Picard of East Hartford, who carried a “Live Free or Here” sign. “It’s basically saying if you want to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights, your 4th Amendment rights (search and seizure) no longer apply.”
Dontrell Brown of Bridgeport carried a sign reading “No, Hitler, you can’t see my ‘permit’.”
“They’re trying to bully legislators and make them pass a bill that is not lawful,” he said.
The bill will help protect the public, police and the gun carrier, Perez said.
“It is not unreasonable, if I see someone openly carrying a firearm on the street, for a police officer to ask, ‘do you have a permit for that, sir?’ and if they do, ‘can I see it?’” he said. “There is absolutely nothing unreasonable about that.”
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