A citizen’s phone call to Connecticut state police about a letter ordering gun owners to dispose of their unregistered so-called “assault” weapons and standard-capacity magazines is sending shockwaves through the national gun-rights community after being recorded and posted online.
The heated phone conversation over the document took place amid rapidly escalating tensions between gun owners and state authorities determined to impose more gun control on Connecticut residents.
In the recording, state police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance – who did not know he was being recorded and told WND it was illegal to do so – can be heard telling the woman that anyone who refuses to dispose of their newly banned firearms in accordance with official instructions could face felony arrest.
Analysts believe the vast majority of Connecticut gun owners failed to comply with the controversial new law, with some suggesting that massive statewide civil disobedience may be at work.
Some accounts estimate that as many as 100,000 people or more could be in violation of the statute.
The woman on the call, who goes by the name Guerrilla girl Ashley and asked WND not to publish her last name, told Vance that her husband had received a letter from state authorities after failing to register his firearm by the statutory deadline.
The instructions say gun owners have the options of selling the weapon to a dealer, rendering it permanently inoperable, removing it from the state or surrendering it to law enforcement.
“My question is this: What happens if my husband decides not to do this?” Ashley asks the officer, who responds by suggesting that she contact an attorney but that his understanding is that non-compliance is a felony.
“What will happen, then, if my husband refuses? Will you come to our home to arrest him?” she asks again.
Sounding calm and composed, Lt. Vance explains that “we haven’t crossed that bridge just yet.” He says her husband could be subject to arrest and that he did not have a “good answer” to the question.
In either case, Vance emphasizes that he would not personally be visiting gun owners, but lower-ranking officers might.
Ashley suggests that this was a “slippery slope”” that could potentially put the police in harm’s way if they go door to door in search of unregistered firearms and gun owners.
“We’re in harm’s way every day,” Vance responded without addressing the prospect of door-to-door gun confiscation.
The caller then asks if the officer took an oath to the Constitution.
“Did I take an oath to the Constitution?” responds Vance, who earned national notoriety in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. “What bearing does that have on this conversation?”
Ashley goes on to argue that enforcing unconstitutional laws, which she said are all “null and void,” would be a violation of his oath. He responded by saying that until the law was struck down by the courts, it was a “lawful law” that would be enforced.
“We’re not the Gestapo, and I don’t want the inference of that,” Vance says. “Your attorney can give you advice.”
The officer also recommends contacting state legislators to express any concerns about the law.
“How we’re going to go about the mechanism of enforcing this law, that’s still being determined,” Vance continues.
“I don’t want to talk about the Constitution, Ma’am, at all, at all,” he adds before Ashley suggests that officials were threatening families into compliance with an unconstitutional statute.
“It sounds like you’re anti-American, it sounds like you’re anti-law,” Vance says, clearly becoming frustrated with the caller, who insists she is “pro-American.”
Eventually, with both call participants getting riled, Ashley lashes out.
“You’re going to speak to me this way, somebody that pays your salary?” she asks. “You’re a servant, you serve me. … You can refuse to follow unlawful orders!”
“Just remember, you’re the servant, we’re the masters, OK?” she adds.
Vance responds by saying: “I’m the master, Ma’am, I’m the master.”
Hear the recorded call: (Be aware of offensive language)
In a subsequent interview with WND after posting the video online, Guerrilla girl Ashley, who works as a radio-show producer, said she merely wanted to find out about the letter sent out to gun owners and what the ramifications would be for those who ignore it.
Three elements of the conversation with Lt. Vance that were most shocking to her, she said, were: His unwillingness to discuss the Constitution, his claim that she sounded “un-American” and “anti-law,” and his reply to her statement about his role as a public servant.
“I would say, call their bluff and ignore their unlawful law, and expose them for the jackboots that they are,” she told WND, urging gun owners to defy the controversial new gun-control regime. “I am a pro-Constitution loving American that wants my republic back, and they are the un-American ones.”
Ashley told WND that the YouTube posting of the recorded phone call, which she insists was not illegal to record because Vance is a public servant, had received a “fab response” so far.
As of March 3, more than 75,000 people had listened to the recording, which spread like wildfire through alternative media, gun-rights forums and blogs.
“People are pissed that a public servant would have that type of tyrannical mindset,” Ashley added.
Vance, however, saw the matter differently.
After first telling WND not to record the phone call, he eventually agreed to allow it.
He said the remarks that sparked controversy were “taken out of context” and needed to be heard “in the entire context.”
“If you listen to the conversation, I made every effort to provide the woman with the information she requested,” he said. “People just don’t understand that these were taken out of context.”
Vance confirmed that the letters were sent out, but he said there were currently no plans to go door-to-door confiscating firearms, as some critics who heard the recording have suggested.
“It was just an information letter, that’s all it was,” he said about the document sent to gun owners who failed to register by the deadline.
He also said the state of Connecticut was not planning to pursue Ashley for allegedly recording the call without permission, which he said was a violation of the law.
All he was trying to do during the call, he emphasized, was answer Ashley’s questions and provide the best information possible.
“We’re still doing the paperwork,” Vance said when asked about whether there had indeed been massive non-compliance with the law.
State Gun Owners React
Connecticut residents who spoke with WND said the mood across the state was tense, especially after a major newspaper essentially suggested rounding up everyone who failed to comply with the new law.
“Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law,” the Hartford Courant said in an editorial.
The paper suggested that longtime fears among gun owners that background checks were being used as a tool to secretly and unlawfully create a weapons registry were not unfounded.
“A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine,” the paper continued. “If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.”
Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson Sr. told WND that he and other gun owners in the state are “very frustrated right now.”
“We have all been put through the ringer, and the law is still not clear to many,” he said. “Many that own types of firearms that are now banned, simply still do not know about this law.”
He hopes the law will be repealed or overturned eventually, and CCDL is currently focusing on a federal lawsuit, Shew v. Malloy, which is now headed to the appellate level.
“If people choose not to comply, that is up to them,” he said. “I understand and believe this law will be decided as unconstitutional at some point down the road.”
Contact information for state lawmakers who voted for the gun ban have been posted online.
National Gun-Rights Advocates Weigh In
Gun Owners of America officials expressed serious concerns about the new gun-control scheme in Connecticut as well as the state government’s behavior.
“Current efforts amount to little more than harassment of law-abiding citizens,” GOA legislative counsel Michael Hammond told WND.
He said the notion of imprisoning unknown numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens was “foolish.”
“Connecticut was one of the five most anti-gun states on the day Newtown happened,” Hammond said. “Guns were prohibited in the school.
“It appears that all Connecticut succeeded in doing was advertising to Adam Lanza that he could walk in there, do whatever he wanted, and nobody could shoot back,” he added.
Asked whether fears of potential gun confiscation and door-to-door enforcement in Connecticut were overblown, Hammond pointed to other anti-gun states with troubling developments.
“They’re doing that in New York,” he said, “sending SWAT teams around to the homes of people who they thought had unlawful guns.
“In California they’ve even created a confiscation fund to seize guns from people who have mental disqualifiers, in many cases law-abiding veterans who came back after having a traumatic experience and sought counseling,” Hammond said.
“We suspect that it is where this could all end up in Connecticut as well,” he said.