Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents are flouting a new law requiring them to register semi-automatic assault weapons — and no one is sure whether they’re doing it on purpose.
A new ban on semi-automatic weapons, passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre and upheld by a federal judge last month, has not had the desired effect. Only about 50,000 gun owners have applied for assault weapon certificates — as little as 15 percent of the estimated number of unregistered assault weapons in the state, which could be as many as 350,000.
There were still long lines in December as gun owners queued up to register their weapons. It's unclear whether those who didn't were deliberately ignoring the new law. In some cases, it seems an act of purposeful civil disobedience.
Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, told The Courant that one constituent said that his friends weren’t registering their AK-15s because they were taking a stand against the law.
"He made the analogy to prohibition," Guglielmo said. "I said, 'You're talking about civil disobedience, and he said 'Yes.' "
But some experts think that gun owners just don’t know about the new rules.
"There are a lot of people, they just do not know about this law," said Scott Wilson, president of Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment advocacy group. "There are people finding out now after the fact."
The law, effective as of Jan. 1, makes owning an unregistered assault weapon a Class D felony — making tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents criminals.
"I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register," said Sen. Guglielmo. "If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don't follow them, then you have a real problem."