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Connecticut governor signs tough gun-control law

April 04, 2013|By Michael Muskal

“We can never undo the senseless tragedy” Malloy said of the shootings, “but we can take action.”

Malloy was among the officials who were at the firehouse in Newtown, Conn., on the fateful morning of Dec. 14 and had to tell parents that their children were not coming home. He and others offered comfort and condolences to relatives, many of whom bear the scars of the attack and have become a lobbying force on the state and federal levels for increased gun-control legislation.

Adam Lanza, 20, stormed the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and, according to state investigators, fired 154 rounds from a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, killing 20 first-graders and six educators. He had earlier shot and killed his mother, Nancy, and ended his spree by committing suicide in the school building.

Connecticut already had gun-control laws, but the new legislation is tougher. The legislation adds more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban and requires background checks for all weapons sales. Ammunition magazines would be limited to no more than 10 rounds.

Connecticut joined states -- including California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts -- in having some of the country's strongest gun-control laws.

“Today, Connecticut joins New York and a growing collection of states that are proving we can pass tough, common sense gun control laws that protect our citizens and make us safer,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The horror of the Newtown tragedy instilled a new urgency across our entire nation that we can no longer accept the unforgivable violence caused by allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of the most dangerous elements of our society. Now we need Congress to show the same courage as Connecticut, Colorado and New York, as well as follow the will of the American people, by taking strong action to stop these tragedies in our country.”

Earlier this week, the Maryland House of Delegates passed what would be among the nation’s most restrictive gun-control measures, voting to ratchet up the state’s already tough rules by requiring fingerprinting of gun buyers, new limits on firearm purchases by the mentally ill and bans on assault weapons and on magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. The measure returns to the state Senate, which passed a substantially similar bill, then on to the governor who has said he will sign it when it gets to his desk.

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, states including Colorado have pushed for new gun-control legislation. But such legislation has not done as well on the federal level, despite heavy lobbying from the Obama administration to build support. The president was in Colorado on Wednesday pushing for his package of gun-control measures and will visit Connecticut on the same mission next week.

Obama had pushed for a package of measures including a renewal of the ban of assault weapons, limits for ammunition capacity and expansion of background checks.

However, even in the Democrat-controlled Senate, there are problems. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said there were not enough votes to renew the assault weapons ban, but he said the measure could come to the floor as an amendment. The basic bill, expected to make it to the floor for debate this month, includes a ban on so-called straw sales and background checks, though the final form is still being discussed.

According to the latest poll released on Thursday, U.S. voters strongly support universal background checks. The survey by Quinnipiac University found that respondents said they favored such checks by a 91%-8% margin, similar to what other polls have found in recent weeks.

But the poll went on to note that 48% of those responding to the poll said they believed background checks could lead to eventual efforts by the government to confiscate weapons. Among gun owners, 53% said background checks would lead to the government taking their guns away -- a frequent trope used by gun-rights proponents in their lobbying efforts.

“In every Quinnipiac University poll since the Newtown massacre, nationally and in six states, we find overwhelming support, including among gun owners, for universal background checks,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “American voters agree with the National Rifle Assn., however, that these background checks could lead someday to confiscation of legally owned guns.”

By a margin of  53% to 42%, respondents said they favored more gun controls and by 59% to 36% said they oppose sales of assault weapons. By 58% to 38%, they said they supported limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, according to the poll.

The Quinnipiac survey of 1,711 registered voters, taken between March 26 and April 1, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Among those lobbying for stronger federal gun control laws are relatives of those killed at Sandy Hook.

A group of 110 relatives, part of the organization Sandy Hook Promise, released a letter calling on Congress to “address the easy availability of high-capacity ammunition magazines and strengthen laws against trafficking in firearms. Additionally, the families call for better enforcement of existing laws, improved mental health care, enhanced school security and a stronger sense of personal responsibility.

“We are under no illusion that making these changes will end gun violence or prevent all mass shootings,” they wrote. “That, however, cannot be the test that determines whether America chooses to act or remain complacent. These measures will surely save many lives. And they will prevent other families from experiencing our grief.”

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