NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBS Connecticut/AP) – State officials have found that tens of thousands of residents are flouting a gun law that required those in possession of military-style rifles to register them with the state police.

According to the Hartford Courant, the rifles should have been registered by Dec. 31 of last year. However, police officials have discovered that possibly only 15 percent of all rifles classified as assault weapons have been registered by gun owners throughout Connecticut.

Police received a total of 47,916 finished applications by the end of 2013, with 2,100 other applications pending completion. The Courant learned that at least 20,000 new criminals could exist in the state due to their failure to comply with their gun registration policy.

“I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register,” state Sen. Tony Guglielmo was quoted as saying on the matter. “If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.”

Mike Lawlor, the state’s top official in criminal justice, said that despite the far-reaching nature of the problem, an aggressive search for those who have failed to comply is unlikely. Instead, he said it is more than likely that a letter would be sent to residents on the matter.

While some may be refusing to comply with the law, others are blaming ignorance for the widespread issue.

“There are a lot of people, they just do not know about this law,” Scott Wilson, president of the 12,000-member Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment advocacy group, told the Courant. “There are people finding out now after the fact.”

Last Friday, Connecticut’s two U.S. senators heard emotional accounts of the toll of urban gun violence as they held a forum in New Haven to hear from activists, police and others about how to address the problem.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal heard calls for more outreach workers, mediators, community centers, and help for former prisoners so they don’t return to crime.

Gun violence has been a long-running problem in Connecticut’s cities. New Haven had 20 killings last year, while Bridgeport had 13 and Hartford had 24, police said.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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