Governor Lamont Signs Ethan's LawJune 14, 2019
Working with Kristin and Mike Song to introduce and pass Ethan's Law has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I was so proud to join them yesterday to watch Governor Lamont sign the bill into law at the Guilford Fire Department.
The story of how this bill became a law comes down to do things: courage and bipartisanship.
When I first met with Kristin and Mike last year in my office about introducing the bill, I told them how hard it is to get any law passed, let alone a gun bill. That's because guns are, to put it mildly, a very contentious issue in today's political climate. But it was in that moment that we made a crucial decision: we would do everything in our collective powers to make this bill different.
That started with them. In private meetings, press conferences and at the public hearing, Kristin and Mike showed remarkable courage to share their story and turn their unbearable grief into action. I can't imagine having the strength to do what they've done but they always retained their composure even when hateful and ignorant things were said about them or Ethan.
Next came bipartisanship. After Kristin and Mike came to me with the idea for Ethan's Law, my first call was to Rep. Vin Candelora who represents a small part of Guilford. Vin is a conservative Republican but I get along with him better than most Democrats and we've worked closely together on a number of issues. Vin told me he had never voted yes on a gun bill since coming to the legislature but told me he wanted to work with me on this bill and he did.
With the Song's fearless determination to make sure no other family had to go through what they went through and with a bipartisan team in place, we drafted a bill to close the loophole in state law that prevented the owner of the gun used in Ethan's case from being charged with improperly storing a firearm.
To understand the loophole, you have to know the story of D.J. Kenney.
In 1989, a 12-year-old boy from Naugatuck named D.J. found a loaded .22-caliber pistol in a bedroom at his friend’s house. What happened next is unclear, but somehow the gun went off and D.J. was shot in the head and died.
In 1990, D.J.’s mom Susan worked with her State Representative to pass Connecticut’s first safe gun storage law. The bill was simple: it would now be a misdemeanor to improperly store a loaded firearm if said firearm was accessible by a minor and a felony if the improperly stored firearm is used to harm someone else.
In Ethan's case, the gun was stored unloaded next to the bullets in a cardboard box. While this did not meet most reasonable people's standard for safe gun storage, the gun was technically not loaded and therefore it's improper storage was not a violation of D.J.'s Law.
Our proposal would simply remove the word "loaded" from state law so that, from now on, it would be illegal to improperly store any firearm, loaded or unloaded, around a minor. We also raised the age of who was considered a minor from 16 to 18.
The next few months were a blur of meetings and, at nearly every turn, we found support from everyone from gun safety advocates to gun owners normally opposed to any legislation like this. Vin worked his colleagues on the Republican side and I worked mine and on May 7th the bill passed the House by a staggering margin of 127-16. Two weeks later and thanks to the help of Sen. Christine Cohen, the bill passed the state Senate 34-2.
In the end, it was the most bipartisan gun bill passed in state history and it wouldn't have happened without the courage of the Song family and the overwhelming majority of my friends on the other side of the aisle who put aside their historic reservations for legislation like this and did the right thing.
No matter how long I do this job and how many more bills I pass, this one will always mean so much to me.
Kristin and Mike turned their nightmare into positive change and, because of them, Connecticut is now a safer place for children.
Thanks for reading and for all your support as we tried to pass this bill.