GUILFORD — Even though he’s already signed gun safe storage legislation, Gov. Ned Lamont felt it was important to come to Guilford Thursday to recognize those who fought so hard to make the law reality.
“Ethan’s Law” — which would require all firearms, loaded and unloaded, to be safely stored in homes occupied by minors under 18 years of age — was the signature gun control legislation passed, with bipartisan support, in the House and Senate in the recently completed General Assembly session.
On Thursday, Lamont joined Kristin and Mike Song, Ethan’s parents, Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, Guilford First Selectman Matt Hoey and others at Guilford fire headquarters to celebrate the achievement.
“It’s important we have laws like this to see if we can save even one life. Millions of kids are living in homes with unsecured weapons,” Lamont said.
Connecticut’s current safe storage law only requires that loaded firearms be properly stored “if a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor.”
Ethan Song, of Guilford, died of a self-inflicted gunshot. The 15-year-old accidentally shot himself in the head in January 2018, the Waterbury state’s attorney’s office said after concluding its investigation.
A juvenile friend of Ethan’s was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death.
Ethan’s parents have become nationally known advocates for stronger gun storage laws since their son’s death. In Guilford, the couple is beloved for their advocacy on behalf of their son. Last Saturday, more than 1,000 runners took part in a 5K run/walk to raise funding for efforts on behalf of gun control organizations, among others.
Kristin Song repeated a term she used often at the state Capitol to describe her emotions about the bill signing ceremony: “bittersweet.”
“Thank you to everyone who came out to support Ethan’s Law — know that you are part of saving children,” Kristin Song said. “I stared into those beautiful green eyes the morning he died and thought this kid is going to make a big impact — never thought it would be like this. We love you Ethan.”
Kristin Song told the crowd at the firehouse that she is ready to take what has so far mostly been a Connecticut issue and make it a national one.
“Ethan’s death brought me to my knees,” Kristin Song said, stating in her darkest moments she has even considered suicide because “the physical pain can be so intense.” Many in the audience teared up listening to her talk about missing her son.
“But I am not a victim, not a survivor,” Kristin Song insisted. “I am a warrior, and here we come D.C.,” said Kristin Song as the crowd roared.
The Songs already have made two trips to Washington, D.C., where U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced federal legislation modeled after Connecticut’s “Ethan’s Law” bill.
The Songs met Republicans on Capitol Hill to discuss Ethan’s Law. So far, only Democrats are backing the proposal, which is not supported by the National Rifle Association.
Lamont told Kristin Song, “I’ll go to Washington with you,” to fight for a national Ethan’s Law.
DeLauro and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who is introducing a Senate version of Ethan’s Law, said the federal bill would include fines for unsafe storage of guns and possible jail time and exposure to civil liabilities if the improperly stored weapon results in injury or death. Their bill would also provide law enforcement grants to states to implement similar laws on the state level.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2017 at least 2,696 children and adolescents were unintentionally shot after a gun was improperly stored; more than 100 were killed. Another 1,110 children took their own lives, many with unsecured firearms.
The Harvard School of Public Health found that adolescents who die by suicide are twice as likely to have access to a gun at home than those who survive suicide attempts.
Scanlon, who called working on Ethan’s Law legislation “one of the greatest honors of my life,” said the Songs are to be forever admired “for taking their grief and turning it into something beautiful. Because of their courage Connecticut will be a safer state.”
Scanlon and others talked about how much bipartisan support the bill had and gave credit to Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford for helping to make that happen.
“We all put down our party labels,” said Candelora, who has said more than once that he has never backed gun control legislation in the past. “We worked toward making a bill that could help the state of Connecticut.”
Mike Song, as he often does, credited his wife with being the one who worked 24/7 to ensure the legislation’s passage. But referring to the night he had to tell his other children about their sibling’s death, Mike Song added: “I don’t want anyone else to have to make that phone call.”
Ethan’s Law wasn’t the only gun bill that made it through the General Assembly this year.
Also winning approval were laws requiring a person to secure their pistol or revolver in a motor vehicle and another that regulates so-called “ghost guns” which are handmade guns or 3-D printed guns without serial numbers.
This law comes as many cities in the United States see rising numbers of gun thefts from cars, seeing year-to-year increases of up to 40 percent; in Atlanta, up to 70 percent of all reported gun thefts are guns stolen from cars.
The ghost gun bill requires the person building the gun to obtain a serial number from the Department of Public Safety and Protection. The bill also prohibits the transfer of the handmade guns and doesn’t allow the manufacture of a 3-D printed gun if it can pass undetected through a metal detector.
These types of guns have been seized in Connecticut towns including Torrington and Waterbury.