Attorney General: Honorable Kenneth Kirschner, Commissioner of Public Safety, 1995-025 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

September 21, 1995

Honorable Kenneth Kirschner
Commissioner of Public Safety
21111 Country Club Road
Middletown, Connecticut 06457

Re: Purchase or receipt of pistols or revolvers on or after October 1, 1995

Dear Commissioner Kirschner:

Recently, it has come to the attention of this office that certain retail firearms dealers have advertised that customers may purchase handguns until October 1, 1995 without a permit to carry such weapons, and without an eligibility certificate. This "policy" is apparently prompted by their interpretation of the interplay between Connecticut General Statutes 29-33 and 29-36j. The purpose of this letter is to (1) clarify the relationship between these two statutes, and (2) afford the Department of Public Safety appropriate guidance concerning the proper implementation of the statutes' provisions.

Until recently, the process by which sale of a pistol or revolver was accomplished was governed solely by the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-33(b). That statute provides, in pertinent part, that

No person, firm or corporation shall sell, deliver or otherwise transfer any pistol or revolver except upon written application on a form prescribed and furnished by the commissioner of public safety. Such person, firm or corporation shall send one copy of such application by first class mail on the day of receipt of such application to the chief of the police department of the municipality within which the applicant resides or, where there is no chief of police, the first selectman or warden of such municipality, as the case may be, and one copy to the commissioner of public safety, and shall retain the application for at least five years. No sale, delivery or transfer of any pistol or revolver shall be made unless the person making the purchase or to whom the same is delivered or transferred is personally known to the person selling such pistol or revolver or making delivery or transfer thereof or provides evidence of his identity in the form of a motor vehicle operator's license, identity card issued pursuant to section 1-1h or valid passport. No sale, delivery or other transfer of any pistol or revolver shall be made until the expiration of two weeks from the date of the mailing of such copies.

In 1994, the General Assembly enacted Public Act No. 94-1 (July Special Session). Section 12 of that Act, now codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-36j(a), altered the above scheme. This statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

On and after October 1, 1995, no person may purchase or receive any pistol or revolver unless such person holds a valid permit to carry a pistol or revolver issued pursuant to subsection (b) of section 29-28, a valid permit to sell at retail a pistol or revolver issued pursuant to subsection (a) of section 29-28 or a valid eligibility certificate for a pistol or revolver issued pursuant to section 29-36f or is a federal marshal, sheriff, parole officer or peace officer.

The confusion over the interplay between these two statutes has arisen since September 17, 1995. Persons attempting to purchase handguns cannot, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-33(b), take possession of the weapon until after the passage of the fourteen day waiting period provided for by that statute. However, on or after September 17, 1995, the passage of the fourteen day waiting period necessarily crosses the October 1, 1995, date on and after which the new provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-36j(a) apply.

Some firearms dealers have taken the position that they should continue to apply only the provisions of 29-33(b) for purchases initiated through September 30, 1995, and apply the requirements of 29-36j(a) only to transactions initiated thereafter. This interpretation is not in keeping with the plain language of the statute. "The starting point in any case involving a question of statutory construction must be the language used by the legislature." Nickel Mine Brook Associates v. Joseph E. Sakal, P.C., 217 Conn. 361, 364, 585 A.2d 1210 (1991). "When the words of a statute are plain and unambiguous, we need look no further for interpretive guidance because we assume that the words themselves express the intention of the legislature." Norwich v. Housing Authority, 216 Conn. 112, 117-118, 579 A.2d 50 (1990). The provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-36j are clear and unambiguous. According to the plain wording of the statute, on and after October 1, 1995, no person may purchase or receive any pistol or revolver unless such person is a federal marshal, sheriff, parole officer or peace officer or holds (1) a valid permit to carry a pistol or revolver, (2) a valid permit to sell at retail a pistol or revolver, or (3) a valid eligibility certificate for a pistol or revolver.

It is our opinion, therefore, that persons purchasing or receiving a pistol or revolver on or after October 1, 1995, must comply with the requirements set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-36j regardless of when the transaction was initiated. We hope that this opinion is of some assistance to you in discharging your regulatory duties under the law.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General


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