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Connecticut close to enacting tough gun measure

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Four months after the shooting rampage in Newtown, the Connecticut state Senate on Wednesday signed off on what lawmakers touted as the strictest gun controls of any state in the nation after a daylong debate that stretched into early evening.

The state House, controlled by Democrats as is the Senate, was expected to then pass the same bill and send it to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, also a Democrat.The legislation, passed on a 26-10 vote, would break new ground by creating a "dangerous weapons offender" registry to track those convicted of gun crimes, as sex criminals now are. The bill also bans the sale of new high-capacity ammunition magazines, and requires gun owners to register with the state any high-capacity magazines they already own.

It also strengthens the state's existing ban on military-style, semiautomatic rifles by adding more than 100 additional models to the list, and it immediately requires universal background checks on all gun sales, including private sales and those at gun shows.

"The tragedy in Newtown demands a powerful response," Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams, Jr., Brooklyn Democrat, said Wednesday. "It deserves a response that transcends politics."

The legislation also provides $15 million for school safety infrastructure, among other school safety and mental health provisions.

Mr. Williams said that every day in America, children are killed in cities, "without the attendant publicity" of Newtown, or other mass shootings like the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, in which gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people before killing himself, or last summer's theater attack in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 before the gunman killed himself.

Both gun-rights and gun-control advocates descended on the state Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday to express their support of — or opposition to — the new restrictions.

Soon after the start of the debate, which lasted about six hours, Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, New Haven Democrat, prompted murmurs from the audience when he said there was nothing in the bill that would infringe upon people's Second Amendment rights.Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, Stafford Republican, said he couldn't "connect the dots" between gunman Adam Lanza and ordinary, law-abiding citizens."You're punishing the wrong people. It's that simple," he said. "The premise is just wrong."

Mr. Guglielmo also said that 5,000 jobs are connected directly or indirectly with the firearms industry in Connecticut, and said businesses threatening to leave or potential boycotts of Connecticut gun products as a result of the legislation would hammer the state's economy.

"You never want to trade money for blood, but there is an economic component and I think if you don't mention it, it's avoiding part of the equation," he said.

"I understand we have to do something," he continued, offering, for example, mandatory minimum sentences for straw purchasers. The Senate rejected a host of proposed amendments, including provisions that would carve out shotguns and shotgun shell purchases from the bill's requirements and one that would allow a maximum ammunition capacity of 17 bullets for handguns and pistols, rather than the 10-bullet threshold in the law.

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