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Connecticut mayors want to target repeat gun offenders to stem city violence

Bristol Police Officers Vigil
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Aliyah Sanango, 4, places a candle at the memorial for Bristol police officers Sgt. Dustin DeMonte, 35, and Officer Alex Hamzy, 34, who were killed in the line of duty on Oct. 12, 2022. Two of her older siblings are part of the Bristol Young Cadets; the family came to the vigil outside the Bristol Police Department on Friday, Oct. 14.

Connecticut mayors and members of law enforcement came together to announce a series of legislative recommendations aimed at reducing violent crime in cities. The proposals reflect the final recommendations of a task force created in 2022 by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities with the goal of increasing accountability for repeat offenders involved in gun violence.

The majority of the speakers at the event at the state Capitol on Tuesday said a small number of offenders repeatedly commit gun crimes in Connecticut cities. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker stressed the need for accountability among repeat offenders.

“A large share of the gun violence that occurs in Connecticut cities is committed by individuals with a significant history of prior offenses, including individuals who are out on bail in or out on parole or probation,” Elicker said.

The proposals focus on repeat offenders by instituting harsher consequences for serious firearm offenses. That includes increased bail requirements and immediate jail time for anyone out on parole who commits a serious firearm offense.

“Among the felons with the highest risk of committing a shooting are those who have been previously convicted of the crime of criminal possession of a firearm, also known as felony possession, based on an evaluation of arrest data over the last two years,” said Patrick Griffin, New Haven's chief state's attorney. “Having been previously convicted of criminal possession of a firearm by a felon makes a person ... more likely to be arrested for a shooting when compared to a person with no prior criminal record.”

Standing alongside politicians and law enforcement were families impacted by gun violence. Laquavia Jones lost two sons to gun violence. A suspect in her second son’s murder was a repeat offender who was out on bond at the time of the shooting. Jones agreed with lawmakers who say the new tools proposed for law enforcement and the judicial system would make it more difficult for repeat offenders to be out on the street.

“I not only stand for my own children, but for the group I represent: survivors of homicide. Not just for mothers, but for fathers, for the whole community,” Jones said. “This needs to be in place to send a message that it is not acceptable to continue to be a violent offender and just come home and walk free to cause more harm and danger to our community.”

The proposals are part of a larger push across the state for tougher tools to combat crime, including three sets of gun violence prevention bills Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed this legislative session.

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