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Conn. gun control - an easy start

Published January 23. 2013 4:00AM

As those task forces appointed by the governor and legislature review proposed gun bills, we hope they remember the state with "the toughest gun laws in the nation" allows people with permits to carry guns into theaters and other public places like bars, restaurants, supermarkets, college classrooms and even churches, synagogues and mosques.

This oversight was rather dramatically called to our attention last summer after massacres in a Colorado theatre and a Wisconsin mosque were followed by a disturbing incident here.

Last Aug. 7, two days after the mosque killings and less than three weeks after a gunman killed 12 and wounded 58 in the Colorado theater, a prominent attorney was arrested when terrified moviegoers discovered he was carrying a Glock semiautomatic handgun in a New Haven theater.

The arrest of Sung-ho Hwang on charges of breach of peace and interfering with the police received a lot of media attention, partly because the Criterion on Temple Street was showing The Dark Knight Rises, the film people in Aurora, Colo., were watching when that gunman struck. In addition, Mr. Hwang wasn't your everyday gun toter. He was then president-elect and is now president of the New Haven County Bar Association.

The arrest report said Mr. Hwang was found talking on his cell phone while waiting for the movie to begin. When confronted, he refused to put up his hands, continued to talk on his phone and resisted other instructions from the 20 or so cops dispatched to the theater. He was charged with breach of peace and interfering with a police officer after it was determined he was legally carrying the gun that scared the moviegoers.

Mr. Hwang quickly hired another prominent attorney, Hugh Keefe, who just as quickly announced his client was packing his registered gun for self protection on New Haven's mean streets. He also claimed Mr. Hwang initially failed to cooperate because police flashlights prevented him from recognizing them.

"He thought it was a prank," said Mr. Keefe and prosecutor David Strollo apparently bought the alibi that Mr. Hwang believed the 20 uniformed, armed individuals who rushed to the theatre were merry pranksters. The prosecution of Mr. Hwang was dropped and on Dec. 3, Attorney Keefe convinced a judge to dismiss the unprosecuted charges.

Unlike the NRA, we don't think the answer to gun violence is to send everyone into the public square packing, Old West style. The result would be more shootings, Old West style.

According to Connecticut's Office of Legislative Management, the law permitting concealed weapons in public places exempts elementary and high schools and public parks. At least there is that.

In their wisdom, the legislators also said business owners or pastors who want customers or worshippers to leave Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson home can post notices banning guns. However, there appears to be no penalty for ignoring the notice.

Gun permits can be revoked for cause, which includes being convicted of "criminally negligent homicide, third degree assault of a blind, elderly, pregnant or mentally retarded person, inciting to riot" and other offenses. Of course, one must first assault a blind, elderly or pregnant person in the third degree or incite a riot before they take your permit away.

But Mr. Keefe left us with a solution. When his client was arrested despite being in compliance with the law, Mr. Keefe suggested, "If somebody has a problem with that law, then they ought to go to Hartford and change it."

Indeed.

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