Monthly Archives: July 2013

State Police To Gunmakers: No More Advice On Designs

by Categorized: Firearms Date:

Back in May, a month after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the state’s gun control law, Stag Arms of New Britain came up with a modified design and took it to the state police firearms unit to see whether it would pass muster.

The unit was helpful, even making a design suggestion that would help assure the gun would not be classified as an illegal assault weapon. Stag prepared to make the rifle, a .22-caliber version of the military-style AR-15.

Then in June, the state legislature tightened the law in order to correct a few problems. Stag returned with an updated model, seeking an opinion.

But this time, the firearms unit had a different answer.

“I was told to get a lawyer, figure it out and if I’m wrong I’m going to have to deal with it,” said Mark Malkowski, the Stag Arms owner and president. “It’s my responsibility to interpret…I was told we were no longer allowed to bring prototypes in.”

That means Stag, and any other manufacturer seeking to design a rifle within the rules, and any retailer who offers that product in Connecticut, must take a risk when it comes to figuring out a regulation — a high risk, since selling assault weapons could be viewed as a crime.

It seems reasonable to ask a law enforcement agency to tell citizens what is and is not legal. We expect that of town building departments, tax authorities and countless other local, state and federal offices.

Part of the problem is time. The firearms unit, with four state police detectives and about a dozen civilian employees, is performing a heroic task these days. This is far from the only law the unit must enforce, but this law alone has kept the place on overdrive since the instant Malloy signed it at lunchtime on April 4.

“The first six weeks was pretty much insanity,” said State Police Det. Ken Damato, who helped Stag initially and responded to the manufacturer’s second request for an interpretation. “People were calling us for interpretations and we hadn’t even read the bill ourselves.”

On top of the initial rush of retail and distribution issues, the unit, located in Middletown, must also oversee the process of setting up permits and registrations for rifles, magazines and ammunition purchases. The unit is sending out directives and continues to answer questions.

“We get anywhere from 20 to 50 inquiries a day from different retailers,” said Damato, who is also a lawyer. “We try to give them an understanding of what their obligations are under the law.”

The line is drawn, though, for manufacturers seeking a yea or nay opinion on new designs — and not just because of time concerns, Damato said.

“We’re not engineers,” Damato said. “We’re not arbiters of weapons construction. Stag or any other manufacturer is clearly capable of reading a law which sets forth in great detail the identifiers of an assault weapon, what is now classified as an assault weapon, as well as us. They don’t really need us to be vetting their products, nor is that really our function.”

Malkowski and Nick Discenza, a Stag sales manager who worked with the firearms unit, see it differently.
“He was very apologetic and said the state police are no longer part of the vetting process,” Discenza said of Damato. But Discenza added, “How can you not tell people what they can and cannot make?”

It’s a good question and in this case the gunmakers — including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry group that’s troubled by the policy — are right.

Malkowski points out that he’s not coming to the firearms unit with concepts, drawings and ideas, but finished prototypes that actually fire bullets. The company is ready to present a design with a new type of grip that may or may not meet the law, he said, depending on the size of the shooter’s fingers. That’s obviously a tough call.

Malkowski and Discenza wondered whether the unit received an order after the media widely reported that state police offered advice the first time around. That might make sense, since it’s no secret that Malloy and many legislators are in a running tiff with the gunmakers, and some resented Stag’s efforts to design a new AR-15 under the law.

But Damato said, “We’ve received no directive from staff command that we’re not to communicate with manufacturers.”

This is an easy fix. The firearms unit, to repeat, is performing heroically under battle conditions. These are men and women, sworn officers and civilians, who understand the products, speak the language and have the respect of the industry — unlike the elected officials who created the law.

Attorney General George Jepsen should determine who, exactly, is the final arbiter of firearms design, presumably the state police firearms unit. That agency must be given enough resources to do its job immediately, including overtime and hiring if necessary.

And the agency must be empowered to give an up or down answer any time a gunmaker comes in with an actual prototype — not a concept, a gun that fires.

If the state wants to put 3,000 jobs at risk in the name of perceived public safety, it can do that. It can’t ask those 3,000 people to risk their legal health by figuring out a law that’s hard to interpret even for the agency in charge of doing so.

State Police Receive First Registrations For Assault Weapons; Click Here for Forms

by Categorized: Commerce, Firearms Date:

The state police have received their first applications from Connecticut residents seeking to register assault weapons under the controversial gun control law that went into effect April 4 — and some people are even bringing in their guns, which isn’t necessary.

Residents have until Jan. 1 to register assault weapons, as defined under the law.  But the system is up and running and the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is now processing the requests.

Click here for the pdf of the assault weapons certificate application

“They’re just trickling in so far,” said Capt. Thomas Garbedian.

Applicants must show proof that they owned the firearms as of April 4, must submit a right thumbprint and must have the form notarized. The don’t need to show up in person, and they certainly don’t need to bring their guns, Garbedian said.

The state police “received a couple of calls up here from the local departments saying people are walking in with guns,” he said.

Local police are not processing the applications, which can be dropped off or mailed to the state police headquarters at 1111 Country Club Rd., Middletown.

Click here for the information page of the special licensing and firearms unit on the Connecticut gun control law.

The registrations apply to a broad class of firearms that are defined as assault weapons under the law because they have semiautomatic action and at least one military characteristic, typically a pistil grip. The law applies to, among others, the AR-15 type of rifles that are the same platform as the M-16 and M-4 military rifles.

People in the gun industry don’t consider civilian AR-15’s to be assault weapons because they are not fully automatic, meaning they require a pull of the trigger to fire each round. But that’s what they’re called under the law.

Owners of magazines that carry more than 10 rounds must also declare those items by Jan. 1 — which is trickier, since magazines don’t have serial numbers.

Click here for the magazine declaration form

But before you get the idea of registering for magazines that you don’t yet own, giving you the ability to bring them into the state in the future, be aware: Falsely claiming to own magazines is a Class A misdemeanor.

The law is being challenged in court by three lawsuits, the latest of which was filed Monday by the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents retailers, manufacturers and gun clubs. The NSSF lawsuit, filed in federal district court, charges that the law was adopted improperly as an emergency certification, not requiring a public hearing, and that it violates the state and federal constitutional rights of gun owners and industry firms.

Separately, the department is receiving thousands of requests for pistol permits. Starting next Oct. 1, anyone seeking to buy ammunition will need a certificate, and starting April 14, anyone seeking to buy a rifle will need a license — but the existing pistol permit allows both of those permits, so that’s what many residents are seeking.

The department is ahead of the schedule promised by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who had said the registration forms would be ready by Aug. 1.

Haar Report Hiatus

by Categorized: Economy, Politics Date:

It’s midsummer and the Haar Report will be quiet until the second week of August, as I work on a couple of special projects and go on vacation. Be safe, stay cool and remember to make a little bit of news, but not too much.

For the tireless commenters out there, I’ll leave you with this thought: Connecticut’s economy is not booming in mid-2013 and we of course are showing very weak growth, apparently the only state whose economy shrank in 2012, according to the Commerce Department. But job creation isn’t so bad. Home prices are stable and even rising in a few places.  And for some reason, median household income — the most important measure of family prosperity — is growing faster than that of the nation.

So, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy runs for re-election next year in a rematch against Tom Foley, it’s not a slam dunk that the economy will swing massive votes in Foley’s favor.

Dan

A Business Incubator With Many Community Aims

by Categorized: Jobs, Small Business, Technology Date:

Basements and garages generally come out ahead of business incubators in the folklore about start-ups that make it big — In Connecticut as well as Silicon Valley. Bill Stone, for example, launched what is now the $2.7 billion SS&C Technologies Holdings in his Windsor basement in 1986.

But when it comes to generating group energy, it’s hard to beat an incubator, where fledgling entrepreneurs can bounce ideas off each other and save money at the same time.  Downtown Hartford needs that vibe badly, and the new “community co-working space” of the Social Enterprise Trust is designed to bring it, for new firms born with a goal of helping the world in addition to making money.

Christopher Brechlin Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Christopher Brechlin
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

The space, launching as a fee-charging business on Monday, couldn’t be better situated. In the second floor of a classic, old office building, its massive picture windows open out onto the corner of Trumbull and Pratt streets. The marquee of the XL Center shines brightly across the street and the burgeoning life of the brick walks unfolds just below.

Christopher D. Brechlin, a young Willimantic resident involved in several IT-related and community projects, hopes to use the reSET space to catapult his idea into a winner. The business, Blueprint For A Dream, helps nonprofits use data to map their social impact using data. “It’s actually a lot more community organizing than it is sitting at a computer,” he said.

Brechlin, like a few other entrepreneurs who were at reSET’s opening reception Thursday evening, graduated from reSET’s first social enterprise accelerator earlier this year, a 10-week program that met one day a week.  In the soft-opening of the month since the space opened at 99 Pratt Street, he’s been using the location for meetings and discussions.

“I have never had a more productive brainstorming session than what we had here last week,” he said.

Another graduate of the training, Karen Pace, has a job in technology at Bank of America but hopes to turn her product, Peacebar, into a game-changer.  It’s a high-end energy bar made from dried apricots, cashews, almonds, walnuts, raw coconut butter, cardamom and a key ingredient — essence of tulsi leaves.

Karen Pace Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Karen Pace
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Tulsi, an aromatic herb that has sacred status in parts of India, a symbol of honor and respect, gives the Peacebar its nature as a calming yet nutritious food.

“It’s really about taking a moment and honoring yourself,” Pace said.

Why not call it a Pacebar, after her own last name? Too many other meanings, and besides, that’s not Pace’s nature.

For a fee, the incubator offers open office cubicle space with wired or wireless Internet access, printing, coffee, tea and other office amenities.  Most important, what the entrepreneurs can’t find at home, is the working camaraderie of the shared space.

“I need to have some interaction with people and I don’t get that working home alone,” said Pace, who holds a masters degree in integrative health and teaches health-related classes at Bank of America.

Maureen Farmer had a natural use for her surname as founder of The Farmer’s Garden. It’s a web site, www.thefarmersgarden.com, that connects gardeners who want to share excess produce, tools and growing space with each other, and help feed the hungry.

“I want more people to have access to healthy food,” said Farmer, a programmer from New Britain, who won the social enterprise award at last year’s Start-Up Weekend in Hartford.

Part of the plan behind the incubator is to work with groups that have business skills and expertise and can become “sounding boards,” said Michelle Cote, program director for reSET.

That includes the CTNEXT, the network set up by the state last year as part of the governor’s efforts to support technology start-ups. ReSET also received some grant money from the state.

ReSET, a nonprofit group, also moved its offices to the same space, from a location at the Walker Group in Farmington, which is headed by Kate Emery, the reSET founder.  The goal for reSET is to be self-sustaining within five years, Emery said.  The incubator would be part of that, and there’s no set amount of time an entrepreneur would be expected to set up shop there.

It’s a small enterprise, the incubator, but it’s rightly the focus of significant attention not only for the business that might start there but also for its critical role in creating energy at the heart of the city’s office district.

“I would stay here forever,” Pace said.