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Mike and Kristin Song speak to reporters and activists about Ethan’s Law before Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill at Guilford Fire Headquarters on June 13. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Residents, legislators, and activists packed into Guilford Fire Headquarters on June 13 to watch Governor Ned Lamont put pen to paper and formally sign the bill commonly known as Ethan’s Law into the Connecticut General Statues.
Ethan’s Law, named in memory of 15 year-old Guilford High School freshman Ethan Song, who was shot and killed with an unsecured weapon in 2018, is a safe gun storage bill that closes a legal loophole, promotes safe storage of firearms, and promotes gun safety education. It was first introduced to the community in November 2018, shortly after the state announced it was unable to press charges against Daniel Markle, the owner of the gun used in the shooting, because existing state law requires a prosecutor to prove who loaded the weapon.
The report released by Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt concluded that charges could not be filed against the owner of the gun because there was insufficient evidence to prove that the weapon, a .357 Magnum handgun, was stored in a loaded state, a necessary requirement for prosecution according to current law. According to the state’s investigation, the gun was one of three in the home that were stored in a cardboard box inside a Tupperware container in a closet. Each gun had an operable gunlock and, while there is no evidence that the gun used was loaded when it was in the box, ammunition for the weapon was stored in the same place, as were keys to the gunlocks.
The new legislation amends existing Connecticut General Statute 29-37i, which is the Connecticut firearm safe storage law, by removing the word “loaded.” In addition, the legislation further amends state law by requiring that the state Board of Education provide gun safety education as an option for public school students.
State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98), who introduced the bill in the House, previously said that having a curriculum for gun safety is an important resource for towns, but that no town will be forced to adopt this curriculum. The bill passed 127 to 16 in the House and 34 to 2 in the Senate earlier this month before the close of the legislative session.
At the bill signing, Scanlon thanked Ethan’s parents Mike and Kristin Song for their courage.
“In the days after Ethan passed, I sought Kristin and Mike and I said, ‘If you are ever looking to do something in Ethan’s name, all you have to do is ask,’” he said. “After a few months, they came to me and said, ‘We are ready,’ and today is a culmination of that, of being ready to take grief and turn it into something beautiful, to take tragedy and turn it into action. Because of their courage Connecticut will be a safer state going forward.
“Working with the Song family to get this bill passed is not just the greatest honor of my public service career, it is one of the greatest honors of my entire life,” he continued.
Scanlon also thanked members of the community who have helped support the bill and other legislators. Scanlon said one of the great things about the bill is that it was a bipartisan effort. He pointed specifically to State Representative Vincent Candelora (R-86), who immediately stepped up to get this bill approved.
“This bill addresses a serious issue and it started with a conversation,” said Candelora. “We all put down our party labels and we all worked together to make sure such a tragedy is avoidable in the future. We don’t know how many lives will be saved as a result of this legislation, but we know that it’s a great thing.”
Kristin Song spoke about how her entire world changed following Ethan’s death. She spoke of the challenges and struggles but also told the audience that her fight to promote safe storage laws does not end here.
“I am not a victim; I am not a survivor,” she said. “I am a warrior and we are taking this fight to D.C.”
Lamont said children across the country live in homes with unsecured weapons and laws like this help reduce avoidable tragedies.
“This takes the heart out of a family and we’ve seen what this has done to a community,” he said. “That is why we do everything we can to stand up and make sure this never happens again and that is what this law is all about.”
Lamont also said he will stand with the Song’s on future legislation, too.
“I’ll go down to Washington D.C. with you,” he said. “Sign me up.”
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