A little over three months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut lawmakers are poised to vote on package of sweeping gun control proposals, argued to be some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.
The proposals are the product of a bipartisan task force, which examined legislative solutions to reduce gun-related violence and prevent another mass shooting in the wake of the Newtown tragedy that left 20 children and six educators dead.
- An expansion of the state’s ‘assault’ weapons ban. An ‘assault’ weapon will be defined as any semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine that has one cosmetic feature: pistol grip, barrel shroud, telescoping stock, etc. Under the old ban, it was two cosmetic features before it was considered an ‘assault’ weapon. These weapons can no longer be bought or sold in the state. Existing ‘assault’ weapons will have to be registered with the state.
- A ban on standard-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammo. The ban is not retroactive, meaning gun owners do not have to sell off or destroy their lawfully owned magazines; they are grandfathered in. However, moving forward, these magazines will have to be registered with the state.
- Universal background checks on all gun sales. Every gun purchase, even those made between private buyers and sellers, will require an FFL facilitated background check.
- A ban on armor piercing bullets.
- The establishment of a “dangerous weapon offender registry,” which will require any individual who is convicted of any of more than 40 weapons violations to register with the state.
- The establishment of state-issued eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition, which includes safety training.
- Increases minimum age eligibility for purchase of some semi-automatic rifles to 21.
- Expands requirements for safe storage of firearms.
- Increases penalties for firearms trafficking and illegal possession offensesSCHOOL SECURITY
- Creates statewide council to develop safety standards for school buildings;
- Requires each school to write safety plans;
- Requires state to maintain registry of school security consultants working in Connecticut;
- Requires all colleges and universities to submit safety plans to the state.
- Bans people who voluntarily commit themselves to a hospital from getting gun permits or eligibility certificates within six months of their release;
- Bans people involuntarily committed to a hospital within the past 60 months from possessing a firearm or receiving a permit or eligibility certificate;
- Expands training to teach people to recognize signs of mental illness in young people and get them help;
- Creates group to study state’s mental health care system;
- Requires that requests for insurers to cover certain mental health services be considered urgent and shortens the review time for them from 72 to 24 hours.
Source: State task force on gun violence prevention and children’s safety
“In Connecticut, we’ve broken the mold,” Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. (D-Brooklyn) told the Associated Press. “Democrats and Republicans were able to come to an agreement on a strong, comprehensive bill.”
“That is a message that should resound in 49 other states and in Washington, D.C. And the message is: We can get it done here and they should get it done in their respective states and nationally in Congress,” Williams continued.
While supporters of the package touted bipartisanship, it’s clear that strong opposition from gun rights organizations fell on deaf ears.
Robert Crook, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition of Sportsmen, said gun owners have been organizing protests and showing up at the state Capitol in recent months “for virtually nothing” after learning about the bill.
“Clearly we’ve made our point,” Crook told the AP. “But I don’t know what anybody can do at this point in time.”
“They can register magazines and do all the rest of this stuff. It isn’t going to do anything,” added Crook.
Meanwhile, many gun control advocates see this not only as a major victory, but also as a springboard for future gun control campaigns.
When you take all the elements and compare it, I think you could judiciously say this is the strongest bill in the nation,” Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, told the New York Times.
“We have to be satisfied. There are still other things that we want, we’ll be back for in later sessions,” he added. “But for now, it’s a good thing.”
The General Assembly will vote on the package tomorrow, Wednesday. With Democrat majorities in both chambers passage of the package is almost guaranteed. The measures will be then sent to the governor’s desk for signing. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has voiced support for several of the measures, including the ban on standard-capacity magazines but has yet to endorse the entire package. Even so, he’ still expected to sign it.
As for the fallout for the gun industry based in Connecticut, Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation told Business Insider recently that some manufacturers might consider moving to other states should the legislation pass.
“I’ve had one CEO tell me, verbatim, ‘I can move my factory for free, and I might,’” Keane said, refusing to identify the CEO in question. “When Senators say such derogatory things about guns, it’s deeply troubling and a bit insulting.”