A gun buyback program for Ridgefield is being put together by town officials, and there is discussion — and some disagreement — about a possible town ordinance expanding on the state’s recently passed gun law.
A survey to gauge Ridgefielders’ attitudes on a local gun law is also in the works.
“There will be no tax dollars used. It will be privately funded,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said of the gun buyback.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last week to authorize the Friends of Ridgefield, the town-backed 501(c)(3) organization, to set up a special account to accept donations for a gun buyback.
“Money has been discussed with the private donors,” Mr. Marconi said Monday. There are “one major and several minor” donors so far.
“It depends on the success of the program,” he said. “But we expect this to expand once it’s a definite go.”
The design of the program to purchase guns from private owners is being put together by police Chief John Roche. But he said this week he isn’t ready to announce the specifics.
“I have a couple more meetings before I go and give something formal out,” Chief Roche said.
“We are taking a look at it, working with some citizens and working with Rudy’s office.”
The gun buyback could be a model for a regional program.
“We’ll have a learning experience from this gun buyback program that will perhaps give us insight as to what may have to be done differently for a regional program,” Mr. Marconi said.
While the selectmen unanimously supported the motion authorizing the gun buyback, there was less consensus last Wednesday on the idea of a local ordinance expanding the limits set in the 139-page gun law passed by the state.
Mr. Marconi has suggested the town might address what gun control advocates see as the principal weaknesses in the state’s new law.
While it restricts the future sale of both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that can fire 10 or more rounds without reloading, the state doesn’t ban ownership of them.
A local town ordinance might enact those restrictions — within town borders.
“The majority of the people are asking that,” Mr. Marconi said. “They’re happy with what the state did, although they feel the state fell short. It’s hugely important what the state did, with the universal background checks and other modifications that the state made to the law.
“The question locally is, What can be done with a local ordinance that would add a layer of local law allowing enforcement by our own police? It would be specific to the magazine, the number of rounds in a magazine, which the state has restricted the future sale of.”
A law simply banning possession of multi-round clips might simplify enforcement, compared to state restrictions on sales and purchase.
“From a law enforcement perspective,” Mr. Marconi said, “I’ve been told that enforcement will be very difficult in ascertaining exactly when a multi-round clip may have been purchased.”
The town could pass a local ordinance that would “make all clips over 10 rounds, regardless of when purchased, illegal,” Mr. Marconi said.
“I think a lot of towns, perhaps, will look at the possibility of an ordinance like this,” he said. “I know a lot of them are discussing it right now.”
At least one selectman, Andy Bodner, is skeptical.
“I cannot envision 169 municipalities with their own rules,” Mr. Bodner said Wednesday.
He later sent other members of the board a link to an article on the Forbes website that was headlined: “Connecticut’s Politicians to Its Thriving Gun Manufacturers, ‘Get Lost.’”
In the accompanying email, Mr. Bodner wrote: “Who cares about another 1,000 jobs lost from Connecticut; after all, it’s the feel-good legislation that gets politicians reelected. And the fact that there are very real consequences to those losing their jobs, as well as to the rest of us that will have to pay higher taxes, is just noise compared to all the sound bites and good symbolism.”
Mr. Marconi doesn’t see why a ban on civilian ownership of weapons designed for the military should pose a problem for manufacturers.
“I really have to find it difficult to believe a restriction on the number of rounds in a magazine will have that serious an impact on the industry, or a ban on assault weapons,” he said. “It will create a loss of revenue, sure. But they still will be manufacturing for law enforcement and the military, which I’m sure is a pretty high demand.”
To gauge the depth of support for a local ordinance, Mr. Marconi is putting together a survey — again, to be financed with private support.
“I’m working with a graphic designer and writer to develop a survey that will be inserted into The Ridgefield Press as well as a possible online survey,” he said.
“In Ridgefield, many people have asked about local ordinances, and that specifically is the reason for the survey: To see how does our town feel with respect to a local ordinance concerning the number of rounds in clips and a possible ban on assault weapons. There may be more questions as we get into the development of the survey.”
In supporting the gun buyback proposal, Mr. Bodner said it should be clear the program isn’t associated with a local ban on specific guns.
“I think it has to be clear we’re not linking the two,” he said.