- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Four months after the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday signed into law what legislators have touted as the strictest gun control package of any state in the nation.

The legislation, passed on bipartisan votes of 26-10 in the Senate and 105-44 in the House, will break new ground by creating a dangerous weapons offender registry to track those convicted of gun crimes, and it 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.

“We have come together in a way that relatively few places in our nation have demonstrated an ability to do,” Mr. Malloy said at a bill-signing ceremony Thursday.

Mr. Malloy also urged Congress to pass federal gun controls.

“When 92 percent of Americans agree that every gun sale should be subject to a background check, there is no excuse” for congressmen to buck the will of the people they represent, he said.

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The Maryland state legislature on Thursday also signed off on its own sweeping gun control package that bans so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, among other provisions. It goes beyond Connecticut’s law, at least in part, by including fingerprint licensing requirements on future handgun purchases.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to sign the legislation, said it strikes “a balance between protecting the safety of law enforcement and our children, and respecting the traditions of hunters and law-abiding citizens to purchase handguns for self-protection.”

Both states’ laws also address the issue of mental health; the Connecticut legislation provides $15 million for school safety infrastructure, among other school safety and mental health provisions.

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., Brooklyn Democrat, said that every day in America, children are killed in cities, “without the attendant publicity” of Newtown, or other mass shootings like Virginia Tech in 2007, when gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people before killing himself, or Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and about 60 wounded last July at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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

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

Toward the start of the Senate debate that went on for approximately six hours Wednesday, 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 peoples’ Second Amendment rights. After the Senate passed the measure at approximately 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, the House took up the bill at about 7 p.m. and passed it in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

“I pray today’s bill — the most far-reaching gun safety legislation in the country — will prevent other families from ever experiencing the dreadful loss that the 26 Sandy Hook families have felt,” said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, Berlin Democrat.

But 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. “So basically, I guess, the problem is I can’t connect the dots between Adam Lanza and the good guys. So I think we need to do something, but I [just] wish we would do something that does good, not something that just feels good.”

The Newtown-based National Sports Shooting Foundation, the trade organization for the guns and ammunition industry, said in a statement that the group will be studying the law carefully for a possible court challenge.

“We share the goal of wanting to make Connecticut safer for our citizens following the unspeakable tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School,” the statement reads. “In the end, however, public safety has not been enhanced and the unintended consequences of behind-closed-doors lawmaking will cause considerable confusion until the General Assembly corrects its mistakes.”

The legislature 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.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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