Ridgefield walkout organizer testifies in support of ammo tax

Photo of Peter Yankowski

The Ridgefield teenager who two years ago organized a national school walkout over gun control threw her support last week behind a bill that would tax ammunition purchases in the state of Connecticut.

“An excise tax on ammunition would send a message that should be clear — you have the right to own a weapon, but you do have to pay for the damages it can cause,” said Lane Murdock, during testimony Feb. 27.

The bill in question, House Bill 5040, would create a 35 percent excise tax on ammunition sold in Connecticut. The proposed legislation drew protest from gun-rights advocates at the public hearing last Thursday, who claimed it would unnecessarily punish responsible gun owners if adopted into law.

In 2018, when Murdock was a sophomore at Ridgefield High School, she organized a national movement in which students around the country walked out of class in the wake of the high school shooting in Parkland.

The April 20 protest was purposely chosen to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, widely seen as the first modern mass school shooting.

In the two years since the walkout, Murdock, now 17, said her generation has “seen some change but not enough,” and has watched gun control debates from the sidelines, unable to vote.

The lack of change has created “a strong sense of resentment in my generation,” said Murdock.

Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, a Democrat who represents West Hartford, argued the tax would help the state shoulder the annual cost of gun violence.

Murdock said the cost is more than $1 billion each year, or $333 for each resident.

She was introduced by state Sen. Will Haskell, a Democrat whose district includes Ridgefield, who ceded the rest of his time to her.

Embed 4112139Z-1583252209366 State Sen. Will Haskell

Haskell was among the slew of speakers who attended the April 20 protest at Ridgefield High School, which sparked similar walkouts nationwide.

Murdock offered praise for the state’s moves towards tighter gun laws, “but we still see this trend of gun violence in our communities — lives being torn apart in our cities every day,” Murdock said.

But gun-rights activists turned out to oppose the bill, arguing it would unfairly punish gun owners.

“I cannot understand why a legislative committee in the state of Connecticut would seek to make it harder for people to safely practice with their guns by increasing the expenses,” said Scott Wilson, founder of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

The group advocates for residents right to own and use guns, including the right to carry a gun in public.

The organization called on its members to attend the hearing to oppose the tax on ammunition.

Other opponents argued a tax on bullets would push gun enthusiasists to buy ammo out of state.

Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, a Republican respresenting Derby, called the proposed legislation an “attempt to punish legal firearm owners in Connecticut.”

Murdock’s protest was the second time Ridgefield students walked out in response to the Parkland shooting.

The month before, students took part in a similar demonstration called “March for Our Lives,” a national campaign organized by the student survivors at Parkland.