Written in December 1791, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

This controversial topic assumed a new and tragic place in Connecticut history after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012.

A longer look at state history shows that Connecticut has other connections to the gun debate, particularly in the formation of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Thomas J. Dodd placed himself in the forefront of the debate when he represented Connecticut in the U.S. Senate in the 1960s. Dodd served in the House of Representatives, representing Connecticut’s first district from 1953 to 1957, and in the Senate from 1959 to 1971. As a senator, one of his signature causes for which he relentlessly fought was that of gun control. As early as 1961, as chairman of the Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee, Dodd was speaking out about the need for greater regulation, citing the problem of violence on television and rising levels of gun violence, particularly as it affected young people.

Though years of efforts to regulate firearms through legislation were met with defeat, Dodd pressed on. In January 1967, he introduced a bill designed to increase fees and the regulation of firearms dealers and impose a federal minimum age requirement for handguns and long guns. Known as the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968, it passed in the Senate in May 1968 and by the House of Representatives on June 6, the day after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Other firearms measures were introduced — including the proposal to ban interstate sales of long guns, affixing a serial number on all firearms, and establishing a national gun licensing system — and on Oct. 22, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. The main objectives of this act were to eliminate interstate traffic in firearms and ammunition; deny access to firearms to minors, convicted felons, and persons who had been committed to mental institutions; and enact prohibitions on the importation of firearms “with no sporting purpose.”

In October 1968, following the passage of the bill, Dodd wrote in his records, “No one can predict how many lives will be spared because of this bill, but, if the bloody record of our yesterdays is any measure, millions of future Americans will live to enjoy the promise of many peaceful tomorrows. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play a part in this great moment in our time.”

Information provided by connecticuthistory.org.

More Information

1968

The year the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 passed.