Strong Conn. support for tough gun laws

The voters of Connecticut appear to be more willing to rally around strict gun control measures than their elected representatives, at least up to now.

If the latest Quinnipiac University Poll is correct - or even if it's signficantly off the mark - Connecticut voters, including many gun owners, overwhelmingly favor stricter gun control measures. And we'd like to think these gun owners are more representative of the gun owning community than the noisy extremists wrapping themselves in an incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Even if the numbers are wrong by 10 percentage points or more, something well-done polls like Quinnipiac never are, the results would still show formidable support for strict gun legislation. The poll surveyed 1,009 registered voters earlier this month and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

The two most controversial of the gun measures awaiting legislative consideration, expanding the ban on assault weapons like the AR-15 used in Newtown and banning magazines with more than a 10 round capacity, each received the support of an impressive 68 percent of those polled.

Expansion of the assault weapons ban was the only legislation not supported by gun owners, but the vote was close, 49 to 44 percent. They split evenly on the magazine ban, with 49 percent for it and 48 percent opposed.

On one gun issue, the public appears to be nearly unanimous. A remarkable 93 percent said they favor universal background checks for gun purchasers and that's the highest the poll has seen in favor of any issue in 20 years of taking surveys in Connecticut, according to Douglas Schwartz, the poll's director. The numbers in gun owning households were nearly as high, with 89 percent favoring background checks to just 9 percent against.

Almost as many of those polled - 86 percent - support the establishment of a gun registry for those convicted of gun crimes. Even more significant and welcome was the poll's revelation that nearly as many of the gun owners polled - 85 percent - support the gun registry.

Eighty-five percent of those polled also want to see a permit requirement to purchase and carry all guns. A smaller number of gun owners, but still an impressive 71 percent, agree.

It should be of special interest to Republican legislators that while Republican voters divided 45 to 48 percent on the general question, "Do you support or oppose stricter gun control laws in Connecticut," they supported nearly all of the specific measures.

The poll results were released the day after the legislative task force on gun violence couldn't reach a bipartisan consensus on how to keep guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

It was encouraging to see that the panel was able to agree on most proposals, including universal background checks, the gun offender registry, safer gun storage and restricting ammunition sales to gun permit holders.

The Republican legislators couldn't bring themselves to support an expanded ban on assault-type weapons like the AR-15 used to kill the 26 children and educators in Newtown or the high capacity magazines used in the massacre. But Democrats have a strong legislative majority and that points to passage of the assault weapon and magazine bans and we believe these bills will receive some Republican support.

It would send a strong signal to other states and to the nation if both parties in the state that suffered the unimaginable losses at Newtown could send a unified message on the need to restrict these weapons of mass murder. As Gov. Dannel P. Malloy put it in his recent meeting with The Day editorial board, "Not every state has had 20 babies shot."

Given the strong voter support for gun control, it shouldn't be that difficult for the Connecticut House and Senate to take decisive action.

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