HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – With an announcement of sweeping proposals to curb gun violence, Connecticut lawmakers said they are hoping to send a message to Congress and other state legislators across the country: A bipartisan agreement on gun control is possible.
Legislative leaders on Monday revealed proposals spurred by the Dec. 14 Newtown school shooting following weeks of bipartisan, closed-door negotiations. A vote is expected Wednesday in the General Assembly, where Democrats control both chambers, making passage all but assured.
“Democrats and Republicans were able to come to an agreement on a strong, comprehensive bill,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., who called the proposed legislation the strongest, most comprehensive bill in the country. “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.”
The bill would require background checks for all gun sales, ban the manufacture of new, high-capacity ammunition magazines and require gun owners who already have those magazines to register with the state police. Lawmakers also agreed to create a system that would require gun owners to submit to fingerprinting, complete a firearms training course and a nationwide background check.
In addition, the package creates what lawmakers said is the nation’s first statewide dangerous weapon offender registry and extends the state’s assault weapons ban to 100 new types of firearms and requires that a weapon have only one of several features in order to be banned.
The newly banned weapons could no longer be bought or sold in Connecticut, and those legally owned already would have to be registered with the state, just like the high-capacity magazines.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Fairfield Republican whose district includes Newtown, said Republicans and Democrats have understood they needed to “rise above politics” when they decided to come up with a legislative response to the massacre.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s a package that the majority of the people of Connecticut I know will be proud of,” he said.
The bill also addresses mental health and school security measures, including gun restrictions for people who’ve been committed to mental health facilities and restoration of a state grant for school safety improvements.
The proposal has already drawn strong opposition from gun rights groups.
The Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League said “limiting magazine capacity or mandating registration would only affect people who obey the law.”
It added that nothing in the package would stop someone like Newtown gunman Adam Lanza, who stole the weapons he used in the massacre from his mother.
House Republican Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk) said the bill takes into consideration the rights of gun owners.
“At the same time that we were trying to make sure that our citizenry felt safe; that we put public safety first and foremost, we were also all very cognizant of the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens who are gun owners and their rights,” Cafero said.
The White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama will visit Connecticut next week. Obama is expected to be joined by Newtown families when he makes a stop to discuss gun violence at the University of Hartford on Monday, April 8.
The president “will continue asking the American people to join him in calling on Congress to pass common-sense measures to reduce gun violence,” according to the White House.
According to documents released last week, Lanza had hundreds of rounds of ammunition on him when he opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, leaving 20 children as well as six educators dead.
In the aftermath of the Dec. 14 massacre, New York became the first state to implement strict new gun control reforms.
But not everyone is convinced new gun control measures will work.
“The bad guys are still going to be able to do what they do. They’re still going to get guns. It doesn’t matter so we’re still in trouble,” said Brewster resident Harry Gonzalez.
Others said their constitutional rights were being threatened.
“We have a right to bear arms, which includes the weapon, the magazine for that particular weapon, the ammo,” one man said. “There should be no restrictions on ammo.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy wanted the deal to include a separate vote on large capacity magazines, but didn’t get it.
Newtown parents who lobbied Hartford for gun law changes say they’ll take the compromise.
“I applaud their approach and their bi-partisan task force and I know they want to come up with the strongest possible law for our state,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the massacre.
Also Tuesday, the National Rifle Association unveiled its proposals on preventing gun violence in schools.
The NRA-sponsored National School Shield study is recommending schools across the nation each train and arm at least one staff member.
Former Arkansas Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson headed the study. It made eight recommendations that included online assessments that schools would make of their safety procedures. Hutchinson said the NRA dropped an earlier recommendation that retired police officers and other volunteers be armed to provide school safety. He said the idea was opposed by school superintendents.
The group opposes the main component of the bill being crafted in Congress – expanding background checks to cover nearly all purchases of firearms.
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