Wilton’s newest state senator, Will Haskell, spoke first with GOOD Morning Wilton to talk about his first three pieces of legislation he’ll be introducing as a member of the state legislature.
It’s only been a few days since he was inaugurated, but he has dived in, running from meeting to meeting, getting fully immersed in what’s happening around the capitol.
“My heat still races every time I pull into the building–it’s just such a tremendous honor and opportunity to be here. I feel incredibly grateful for the trust my community has placed in me, so, I am working incredibly hard to bring the voices that I heard throughout the campaign to Hartford, bringing the priorities I learned into this building. I’m really enjoying meeting my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. While people are frustrated with Hartford as a whole, individual senators I’ve met are incredibly kind, incredibly passionate, incredibly knowledgeable.”
Despite being nervous about being the youngest person in the room, Haskell says he’s getting a great reception from his colleagues.
“People realize I bring a different perspective that’s desperately needed. Almost everybody I talked to up here agrees that we need to build a 21st century workforce to encourage high tech companies to stay here and to move here. That means listening to and providing a seat at the table for the next generation of CT workers, citizens, and taxpayers. By the way, that’s true of Republicans and Democrats. I plan to work closely with the state representatives in my district. It means being really collaborative with people like Tom O’Dea and Gail Lavielle, whom I met with and prior to being sworn in.”
“Talking to you is the very first time I’ve sat at my desk. There really isn’t a lot of time to sit and write, to roll up your sleeves and get to work on legislation while you’re in the building, because it’s just so hectic–I think yesterday I had ten 30-minute meetings, popping in and out of committee meetings. The sitting down, the quiet reflection, the real nuts and bolts of the legislative work, that happens at home, frankly. When I make that drive, and I get home, and I get in bed, that’s when I finally get to take out my computer–start to answer emails, start to talk to constituents about some issues that they’re facing with the state government, and most important to start to craft my legislative agenda.”
So, what is on his legislative agenda? What’s Haskell going to be introducing?
The theme of these three bills is that we need to make it easier for law enforcement to do their job.
––State Senator Will Haskell
Banning Ghost Guns
Will Haskell: This came up last year and there was tremendous support in the gun violence prevention community. And it failed to make it through the legislative process. Its companion legislation, which banned bump stocks, was also tremendously popular and that did make it through. So, the unfinished business here that I feel as though I’ve inherited is banning ghost guns.
This redefines exactly what we regulate–what is a gun and what’s not a gun. Specifically, it adds components of a weapon that individuals can build at home without a serial number to the list of registered weapons. It also completely outlaws any individual from owning a weapon that does not have a serial number.
The theme of this bill, as well as the other two, are that we need to make it easier for law enforcement to do their job. They rely on crime-solving technology like having a serial number on the gun. If a weapon is used in a crime, it makes it much easier to track down the culpable individual if that weapon had the serial number. It makes it much easier to take that gun out of circulation if it’s fallen into the wrong hands. So, it’s crucial that individuals cannot build weapons at home. And this is something that strikes a lot of people as common sense.
Look, I talked on the campaign about my family members who own guns in Connecticut. They never built their own weapons. Most of the law abiding community understands that this isn’t a core component of Second Amendment rights. This is a niche loophole that needs to be closed.
I’m introducing it in the Senate. Because this is such a popular topic, I anticipate it will also be introduced in the house. The first step is, it will be referred to a committee, the Judiciary Committee. Luckily, I actually have a seat on that committee. I have an opportunity to vote and advance the bill in that committee.
So, I’ll be working closely with the chairs to make sure that today it’s a priority of all the legislators on the Judiciary Committee and that we then report the bill out of our committee to the House and to the Senate for votes by the whole chamber.
GOOD Morning Wilton: Is there a possibility that another legislator will introduce something similar but other modifications or other changes?
Haskell: Absolutely. I don’t think it’s happened yet. It’s possible too that the committee will raise the bill without any individual legislator’s name. It doesn’t happen every day that your individual bill moves all the way through the legislative process with your name on it. Usually other people sign on if it’s a good idea. Sometimes that bill is put aside, but the exact same language is put into a committee bill.
There’s a great quote. ‘You can either get something done or you can get credit for it.’ I’m interested in getting something done. It’s not for me. I’m putting this bill in right now with my name on it. I’m not going to be attached always to being the sole person on this bill. I’d love for my colleagues to join with me. It’s not about getting the credit for me, it’s about getting this one done.
GMW: Have you had conversations with anyone who has said, ‘That sounds great. I’ll back it?’
Haskell: There’s a tremendous amount of support in the Democratic caucus. Look, not everybody is the same. Some people represent parts of the states that have more guns than people, and that’s obviously very different from the district and the community I represent. So, I don’t anticipate that it’ll be unanimous. But I know that there are a lot of Democrats–and a lot of Republicans hopefully–who spent time door knocking, visiting schools, who talked to parents who worry about that next school shooting, and understand that voters are looking for leadership in Hartford.
Presentation of a Permit Upon Request
Haskell: I’m really excited about this second bill. This is the Presentation of a Permit Upon Request bill.
The [current] statute in Connecticut reads that an individual who is carrying a weapon must also carry the permit that allows them to do so. But the statute doesn’t say that if a law enforcement officer requests to see that permit, the individual has to show it to them. In 2015 there was a lawsuit where a Superior Court in Connecticut said, I think reasonably, is that they must rely on what the legislature said, not what the legislature meant to say.
I think now the legislature needs to speak loudly and clearly and say that what we want is for law enforcement officials to be able to do their job and keep our community safe. If you’re carrying a weapon, a law enforcement officer should be able to approach you, if there’s reasonable suspicion that you’re breaking the law, and ask to see the permit that allows you to carry the weapon.
This, to me, is such a common sense measure. ‘Common sense’ gets overused and when we talk about public policy. But really, when you drive around the streets of Wilton, if a police officer pulls you over, you have to show your driver’s license. And yet, if they notice that you have a weapon in your pocket, you don’t have to show your permit that allows you to do so. That is just crazy. This came up in a previous legislative session in 2017–35 police chiefs advocated for the bill. And yet, the NRA advocated strongly against it. And unfortunately, it was defeated.
I think that’s a real shame. Again, this is something my constituents really do care about. They are looking in the face of cowardice on the national level to stand up to the NRA. They’re looking for leadership from our state government. As Justice Brandeis said, the state can be a laboratory of democracy. We can encourage the standing up to powerful big money organizations like the NRA, which distort the meaning of the Second Amendment to be something far more broad and expansive than our founding fathers ever intended.
GMW: This is something that’s been introduced before. You must know what the numbers were that defeated it. What makes you think there’s a better chance this session? Are the numbers different? What do you think gives this bill a better chance now?
Haskell: Here’s the key difference, I believe. In the past, it’s encountered a lot of suspicion from the black and Puerto Rican caucus, which believes that law enforcement officers might unevenly apply the statute and harass individuals of color. I think we have a way, statutorily, of protecting against that bias, and the legislation that I support [says] a person must only display the permit to a police officer if that officer has a reasonable suspicion of a crime. Without that reasonable suspicion, the officer cannot ask to see the permit. We have to protect individual rights. We have to make sure that law enforcement officers don’t make life unnecessarily difficult for individuals of color. But I hope that we might gain some support from the black and Puerto Rican caucus this time around. And I’m only in the beginning stages of those conversations, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
GMW: Have your colleagues said, ‘Yeah, I’m with you on this one?’
Haskell: What was sent in this most recent election was a clear and resounding signal that voters want our state government to stand up and make sure that every student can feel safe in the classroom. The legislature looks a lot different, I’ve been told, this year than it did last year. There are more diverse voices, but also more progressive voices, and more voices who are driven by common sense solutions to gun violence, not only in this state, but in this country. The Democratic Caucus–we had 23, but three people took a job in the administration–there are now 20 Democratic senators. Not every single person is passionate about gun violence, but a lot of us are. And a lot of us found that passion during the process of the campaign. When we met those teachers, when we met those students who say when they hear a loud noise in the hallway, they can’t do their job, they can’t learn the material that’s on their desk because they’re worried about where they would hide in the event of the next school shooting.
One Gun Per Person, Per Month
Haskell: Last but not least, is a One Per Person, Per Month bill.
So, 20% of all guns that were confiscated in 1999 and 2000 as a part of a crime were purchased during a bulk purchase. This means that when individuals buy multiple weapons at once, they’re usually buying them in a legal manner so that they can then sell them in an illegal manner, allowing weapons to fall into the wrong hands, and, unfortunately, subject our communities to greater crime and greater gun violence.
What I’d like to make sure is that individuals cannot buy multiple weapons at once. If you’re buying multiple weapons at once, the chances that those guns are going to be used in a criminal manner dramatically increases.
Connecticut currently has zero restrictions on the number of weapons you can buy at one time. We have strong gun laws in Connecticut, but this is a real loophole. California, Maryland, and New Jersey all have put in place a one gun per individual in a 30 day period [restriction]. I think we should follow their lead, and once again, show the rest of the country that what works here could work everywhere. We hear all the time from both the gun violence prevention community, as well as the gun owning community that the problem isn’t legal guns, it’s illegal guns. It’s guns that make their way into our cities and, unfortunately, aren’t on the books, making it harder for law enforcement officers to track them down and keep our community safe. This would make sure that there aren’t as many weapons falling into the wrong hands.
GMW: This one sounds like it’s probably going to be the hardest for you to get through. You’re talking restricting legal gun sales, restricting legal gun sellers, and inhibiting business and earning potential.
Haskell: It’s going to be difficult, no question. On the other two, I’m picking up where my colleagues left off. But this is something that I heard a lot about during the campaign, that I learned a lot about in reaching out to gun violence prevention advocacy organizations, like the Giffords Institute, which really strongly advocate for this bill in the wake of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. But there isn’t much legislative precedent for this, so, I’m excited to be proposing it. I know that the road ahead is steep, but look, I plan to reach out to gun owners and gun sellers in my community and let them know exactly what this legislation says.
I’ve got a story that sort of sums it all up. [In September] I went to speak with Governor Lamont (then candidate Lamont) at the Moms Demand Action meeting for Fairfield County at the Norwalk Public Library. There were some NRA folks who showed up to give us a hard time–heckling in the audience, wearing T-shirts promoting their right to own a weapon. When I was speaking, one guy stood up and said, ‘I think you are infringing on my Second Amendment right.’ And I said, ‘Do you own weapons?’ He said, ‘I own many weapons.’ I said, ‘Have you ever bought more than one weapon a month?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, why are you looking to protect the right of people to buy more than one weapon a month if we know that when they do, they’re selling them into dangerous hands. If you haven’t had to buy more than one weapon a month, isn’t it reasonable to ask other people that they simply wait a few weeks before buying that next handgun?’
GMW: And his answer to you?
Haskell: He said, ‘You know what, that makes sense.’ He had his son there with him and they said, ‘We’re both members of the law enforcement community. And we agree that our law in Connecticut is outdated and this is a room where we can come together. And there was huge applause, because suddenly we found an area where we could really agree. We moved past the rhetoric that President Trump, and Wayne Lapierre, and everybody else who seeks to flame the fires of gun owners versus not gun owners. That’s really not the case. It’s about gun safety, making sure that guns aren’t in the wrong hands and students can feel safe in the classroom.
Getting in Touch with Haskell–He Wants Your Input
Haskell: I hope constituents will reach out to me and let me know their thoughts on this legislation. If it needs tweaking and amendments, let me know. If you support it, let me know so that when I walk into the Senate Chamber, I can say, I heard from a dozen, two dozen, three dozen of my constituents who want this bill passed. I can bring those stories with me. Unfortunately, because I have to be in Hartford every day now, I can’t knock doors anymore. I don’t have those stories of hugging a parent who is tearing up because their kid got on the bus that morning and they’re not sure that they’re going to come home that afternoon. They’re so consumed by the fear of school shootings.
I don’t have those interactions like I used to when I was knocking doors every day. So, I need to hear from you. I hope that you’ll call me. I hope that you’ll email me. You can write my office now, and please do be in touch. Let me know how you feel.
GMW: How can people access what you have written and submitted? Is there a way online for people to see?
Haskell: It’s on the Connecticut General Assembly website. Every day there’s a list of bills that are proposed and that will include my legislation. You can look at a list of all the bills I’ll be proposing in the legislative session–I’ll be proposing more than a dozen other bills. So, I hope that people will continue to tune in.
You could also, most importantly, track the progress of those bills, find out if they’re in committee. Look at the transcripts of when people came to testify either in support of the bills or not. I’ll be keeping in touch with people. I’m sending out weekly emails that aren’t called How I’ll Vote anymore. They’re called How I Voted or How I’ll Vote. I want to be as transparent as possible, whether you agree with me or whether you don’t, I’m going to be in touch constantly, letting you know exactly what’s going on here, and when there are public hearings, I will absolutely be inviting my constituents to come and participate.
GMW: What are the ways that people can find you, any other particular contact information you want to give?
Haskell: Just this morning I got my new email account. My email address is Will.Haskell@cga.ct.gov.
The office phone number is 860.240.0483. That’s my direct line. My cell phone is 203.856.0873. I may not be able to get back to people as quickly as I always have. But, certainly. I love getting voicemails and getting back to them eventually.