Police Department Bridgeport, CT
Chief Armando J. Perez Mayor Joseph P. Ganim
For Immediate Release For More Information:
April 27, 2016 Av Harris (203) 814-7992
Mayor Ganim, Bridgeport Police, Sen. Gomes, Rep. Stafstrom Call for Passage of Legislation Clarifying Rules for Open Carry of Firearms
House Bill 5408 Would Require any Individual Openly Carrying a Firearm to Produce their Permit if Asked By Law Enforcement Officers
Bridgeport – Mayor Joe Ganim joined Bridgeport Police officers who are members of AFSCME Council 4, Police Chief AJ Perez, Bridgeport State Senator Ed Gomes (D-23) and State Representative Steve Stafstrom (D-129) today in calling for passage of House Bill No. 5408, “An Act Concerning the Presentation of a Carry Permit” before the Connecticut General Assembly’s legislative session ends next week. Specifically, House Bill No. 5408 would require anyone openly carrying a firearm in Connecticut to produce their permit to carry that firearm if asked by a law enforcement officer. Law Enforcement officers throughout Connecticut have called for this legislative change after a video surfaced in January that went viral in which an individual openly carrying a firearm in a downtown Bridgeport Subway franchise was openly carrying a pistol. When Bridgeport police officers – responding to a call for suspicious activity by an armed person – asked to see the man’s permit, the individual challenged the officers’ right to demand he show his permit, and the individual was let go. The video pointed out ambiguities in state gun laws surrounding open carry of firearms, since under existing law a police officer can only ask to see a firearms permit if the officer has reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed. This has lead to confusing interpretations of the law, which House Bill No. 5408 is meant to clarify, as well as assist police officers in the performance of their hazardous duties.
“No one is questioning anyone’s constitutionally protected right to bear arms, but we also have a high degree of gun violence in communities like Bridgeport, so we want to protect the public and make the already dangerous job of being a police officer clearer,” said Mayor Ganim. “If you are openly carrying a firearm, you are already required to carry your pistol permit on your person. All this bill does is require you to produce that permit if asked by law enforcement officers. 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. 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.”
“We shouldn’t need legislation to enforce what should be common sense: if a police officer asks to see your gun permit, show it.” Representative Steve Stafstrom (D- Bridgeport), a sponsor of the legislation, said. “But, based on recent incidents in Bridgeport and elsewhere, apparently we do. I thank Mayor Ganim, our local police departments and AFSCME for standing in support of this bill which will protect the public and our dedicated police officers.”
“I believe in the police officer’s right to do their job, and we don’t want to see any law abiding gun owner harassed. That’s why this bill strikes a good balance,” said State Senator Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport). “Under this bill, the weapon has to be open and visible for the officer to ask for the individual’s permit, and then the person carrying that weapon must show the officer their permit. I liken this to a driver’s license. If you are driving a car and you are stopped by a police officer, you must produce your license if asked. How can anyone argue that the same standard should not apply to someone openly carrying a firearm?”
Bridgeport Police Chief Armando j. “AJ” Perez said, “We support the 2nd Amendment. What we want to do is safeguard the good people who live in the city of Bridgeport and throughout the state of Connecticut. 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?’ There is absolutely nothing unreasonable about that. It not only safeguards the public, but also the person carrying the firearm, and the police officer. That’s why we all support this legislation.”
Bridgeport Police Officer Ricardo Lopez, who was filmed in the viral video confrontation in January and serves as Vice President of AFSCME Local 1159 Bridgeport Police Officers’ Union, said, “This is not about taking rights away. We recognize that in order to be a Connecticut firearms permit holder, you have to be a law abiding citizen. You are who we protect and serve, and we have the utmost respect for our permit holders. We are proud to be your first line of defense. The issue for us is that you can see my badge and my uniform and know without a doubt that I am on your side. We just want the ability to verify your permit so we can also know that you are on our side.”
House Bill No. 5408 passed by a vote of 16-9 out of the Public Safety Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly and now awaits action by the State House of Representatives. The 2016 legislative session ends at midnight on Wednesday night May 4, 2016.