NORWALK, Conn. — Guns will not be allowed on City-owned or City-leased properties, except by peace officers, police officers and authorized security personnel, in an ordinance revision that Norwalk Common Council members are working on.
Hunters would be allowed to carry unloaded shotguns at the Veterans Park marina to get to their boats.
“There’s no prohibition whatsoever on hunting, the way that is established right now, what’s allowed by Connecticut State law is obviously still permitted by this new Norwalk ordinance. It’s really a matter of making sure that if people are carrying guns across city property, that they are duly licensed hunters, that their guns are unloaded, and that they’re going to the they’re going to the Marina,” Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Lisa Shanahan (D-District E) said at the Committee’s Oct. 20 meeting.
The Ordinance Committee began discussing this in July, after Mayor Harry Rilling asked for waterfowl hunting to be permanently banned at Calf Pasture Beach, a follow-up to a one-year moratorium issued last year.
“The Mayor thought that it was really kind of a dangerous situation for people to be duck hunting. It’s also kind of nerve racking for people to hear gun guns being exploded on properties and whatnot,” Shanahan said in July.
“We looked at the statute and one of the things that’s a concern for us has been that Connecticut’s an open carry state, anyone can carry guns into any building, that there’s not a posting for guns not to be able to be carried in,” she said on Oct. 20. “And so once that came across our threshold, we were like, ‘well, this if we’re going to address the hunting part, we ought to also consider whether or not we really think that we ought to be allowing people to bring guns on our city properties, leased premises or parks.’”
She said, “Primarily, we basically wanted to also make rules for carrying firearms or hunting in on in or on city-owned or leased properties and facilities. And with the idea to keep employees safe, our citizens safe.”
The Committee voted to table the item to its next meeting, which should be Tuesday.
‘Question the need’
The news hit social media this week with a Reddit post titled, “Norwalk Attacks Second Amendment & Legal Gun Owners.” The Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL) issued an action alert, the poster said.
CCDL President Holly Sullivan confirmed that Thursday.
“There is no evidence that banning firearms on town property reduces any crimes nor has any impact on public safety,” CCDL said in a statement. “Law abiding gun owners are already conscientious members of our communities. They are not ‘random people,’ but individuals that have been approved to carry a firearm in public places by the Norwalk Chief of Police after having completed a series of steps required by Norwalk and the state of Connecticut. This ban only inhibits upstanding citizens from exercising their means of self defense. We encourage our members to speak up and question the true need for such an ordinance.”
These issues came up in the Oct. 20 Ordinance Committee meeting.
Norwalk doesn’t get “a lot of complaints” about people with guns at Calf Pasture Beach but does get complaints every season, Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said. “The concern is always the proximity of the hunters to others, because it’s a highly used area. So it’s not a tremendous amount of complaints.”
Waterfowl hunting is allowed outside a 250-foot radius of the high tide mark at Calf Pasture, Shady Beach and Veterans Park.
Hunters are usually following the rules, Kulhawik said, in response to questions from Council member Thomas Keegan (R-District D).
Council member Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large), who is not on the Ordinance Committee, said, “I’m fairly confident as written, this (drafted ordinance) is a constitutional infringement. Is it not? Does this open us up to lawsuits?”
“Litigation as it pertains to the second amendment, there’s a lot of it,” Assistant Corporation Counsel Brian Candela replied. “… Anybody has the right to file a lawsuit.”
Candela had researched similar ordinances and provided the Committee with a list from “many” Connecticut communities, as part of drafting the current revision. “Many other municipalities in the state of Connecticut that have similar type gun restrictions,” he said.
Connecticut general statute 29-28 basically “says that a person with a pistol permit is generally allowed to carry such weapon into a building or premises unless the owner prohibits such conduct,” Candela explained.
“Could somebody file a lawsuit? Yes,” Candela said. “The potential success of something like that would be something that I’d have to look into to see if somebody actually challenged one of these municipal ordinances in other jurisdictions, but it’s my understanding that a lot of these other jurisdictions in Connecticut have had this type of restriction for quite some time.”
“I doubt they challenge us,” Council member Tom Livingston (D-District E) said. “They challenge the state statue, wipe out all the statutes in the state.”
Candela suggested the Committee review language in Weston’s ordinance, as it might be incorporated it to prevent people from “misconstruing us infringing on their second amendment right.”
Council members agree: no guns in parks
“I think it’s pretty clear, at least it’s clear to me, that our buildings should be gun-free. I do believe our parks should be gun-free. I don’t like the idea of somebody renting Gallaher estate and having a big party with guns there,” Livingston said.
Given the State statute, Norwalk has a sign in City Hall informing visitors that they cannot bring a weapon in unless they are a police officer “or something along that line,” Candela said. That was put up when someone was talking about bringing in a gun, he said.
The library has inquired about prohibiting weapons in its buildings and by extension, there are other City properties, Candela explained.
The drafted language is broad, Sacchinelli said, asking if a violation would be a crime.
“There would be a criminal penalty. We could make an arrest, it would violate the permit statute,” Kulhawik replied. “…But again, depending on the circumstances, our first step would not necessarily be to arrest the individual. …I wouldn’t expect that someone, you know, who simply made an error and was cooperative would be arrested for it.”
Keegan, Sacchinelli and others pressed for signage on City properties, warning visitors about the law. Kulhawik agreed, but Sacchinelli also speculated about what would happen if a gun owner saw the sign and decided to leave the gun in the car.
“I have a pistol permit,” Sacchinelli said. “I’m legally licensed, not necessarily saying that I want to carry a firearm into City Hall, nor would I, but there are times where I’m transporting… as a legally armed citizen, the concern is if I’m going between these events and going back to my point about out-of-towners, I’d almost rather them have control of their firearm as opposed to having it unsupervised in a vehicle because, you know, we made a parking lot inaccessible to them.”
“I too, am a permitted gun owner and, sadly, not these days as avid, but a hunter,” Council member David Heuvelman (D-District A) said. “I want to make sure that we are, you know, people are duly licensed are not being (given) an undue burden.”
He said, “I don’t want to see the guns in city parks. I mean, that’s, that’s my issue, because I think that’s a that’s a recipe for a larger problem. So that’s sort of my opinion, I think city buildings the same.”