Connecticut lawmaker seeks constitutional convention on guns
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A top Connecticut state lawmaker on Tuesday raised the idea of states banding together to request a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution and ban assault-style firearms.
Hartford Rep. Matthew Ritter, the Democratic majority leader of the House of Representatives, acknowledged it’s a “tall order” to get two-thirds of the state legislatures to call for a convention, given fear it could veer into other issues. But he said the “long shot” effort would give hope and energy to advocates, especially younger people angered by recent mass shootings and frustrated by the lack of congressional action on gun legislation.
“They’ve just given up on the world and go, ‘There’s just nothing we can do because there’s nothing you can do federally. We’re resigned to this. We’re stuck with it. It’s going to happen 100 more times in the next 10 years,’” he said.
Ritter believes the push for a constitutional convention could be a rallying point, especially in a state like Connecticut that already enacted wide-ranging, bipartisan gun control legislation following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. Connecticut’s law includes an expanded assault weapons ban.
Ritter said gun control advocates might have an easier time influencing state legislatures than Congress, noting they’ve already been more successful on the local level.
“The goal is to put this in the domain of local officials and local activists, as opposed to trying to lobby Congress, to push Congress, which is the equivalent of trying to move 75,000 whales,” he said. “It’s just never going to happen.”
Congress has not renewed a federal ban on assault weapons, which was put in place during the Clinton administration before it expired under President George W. Bush.
Republicans for years have tried to rally enough support from states to convene a constitutional convention on issues such as a mandatory balanced federal budget and term limits on members of Congress. In 2016, the GOP held numerical majorities in 33 legislatures, just one shy of the two-thirds required to initiate a convention. Today, the GOP controls 31 legislatures.
The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times since it was ratified in 1788, and its Article V spells out two ways to propose amendments. Besides two-thirds of legislatures requesting Congress to call a convention of the states, the U.S. House and Senate can refer an amendment to the states by a two-thirds vote in each chamber. Both scenarios require three-fourths of the states — or 38 — to ratify an amendment before it takes effect.
Ritter has asked his staff to investigate the process. He expects Connecticut legislative leaders will meet to discuss the concept this fall.