Either we should have an online registry for all ex-felons, or none!
By Ed Jacovino
HARTFORD - The bipartisan package of gun control, mental health, and school security measures that cleared the General Assembly overnight also creates a statewide registry of people convicted of a slew of gun crimes.
But that list would be kept for police use only, and wouldn’t be publicly available under the state’s freedom-of-information laws -- even though much of the data on the registry would be public information anyway.
That’s unlike the state’s sex-offender registry, which residents can access online to see whether any people convicted of sex crimes live in their neighborhood or near their child’s school.
“The legislature has a lengthy list of bills before it to shut down transparency in this state,” said Chris Van de Hoef, a lobbyist for the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association. “Add this registry, which is loaded with information I assume the public would be interested in, to the list of information the legislature wants to keep secret.”
Supporters of the gun control legislation, including Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, described the registry as the first of its kind in the country. City police chiefs have asked for it for years, and now the legislature has delivered, he said.
The registry would take effect in January. People convicted of crimes using a deadly weapon would have to file their fingerprints, criminal record, and home and email addresses with the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection within 14 days of being released from any prison sentence.
Those on the list would have to re-register every year by going to their local police departments and verifying or changing the information. And people on the registry who change their name or move also would have to notify the state about the change.
During debate on the bill Wednesday, Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown, questioned why the list would be private.
“Why wouldn’t we have that information available to our public?” he asked.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, indicated he would be open to making the list public in a future bill. But that would have to be debated at another time, he said. The bill the Senate approved limited access to the registry to police.
“The purpose of this was as a tool for law enforcement,” Williams said.
Kane responded, saying the list should be public.
“I think it’s important because we’re talking about bad guys here,” he said. “I think the public has a right to know.”