Don't again miss chance at gun reform

Two years ago a bill, which would have banned possession of 30-round magazines like those used to kill 20 children and six women in the Sandy Hook Elementary School, was introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly. It never came to a vote.

Now there are attempts to remedy that on many levels. Connecticut's U.S. senators are co-sponsoring strict gun legislation in Congress that includes a ban on large-capacity magazines and they have already been banned in New York. In addition, Senate President Donald Williams has told us that after the Newtown horror Connecticut should feel obligated to take a leadership role in dealing with these weapons capable of mass murder.

In 2011, Connecticut's failed Senate Bill 1094 would have made it a felony to own ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. It was introduced soon after a nine-year-old girl and five adults were murdered and Congresswoman Gaby Giffords was seriously wounded at a Tucson, Ariz. mall. The killer used a Glock 19 with a 33-round magazine.

Adam Lanza's weapon in the Sandy Hook killings, except for the handgun he used on himself, was a Bushmaster AR-15 with magazines containing 30 bullets, according to Lt, Paul Vance, the Connecticut State Police spokesman. The guns were owned by Lanza's mother - his first victim.

There is, of course, no way to know if Nancy Lanza would have turned in her magazines 90 days after passage of SB 1094, as the bill would have required. Had she obeyed the new law, there would have been no large capacity magazines in the Lanza home for more than the entire year leading up to the Newtown murders.

But the bill never got out of the Judiciary Committee and its failure is a testament to the power of Connecticut sportsmen's organizations and the National Rifle Association, which had sneered in a newsletter that SB 1094 was nothing more than "a bill in search of a problem."

"No correlation exists between the size or arbitrary capacity of a detachable magazine and violent crime," was the incredible NRA claim just weeks after the capacity of the magazine had made it so easy to kill six people and wound 18 so quickly in Tucson.

With the NRA's encouragement, thousands of gun owners, manufacturers and dealers sent letters and e-mails to lawmakers. Dozens submitted written testimony to the Judiciary Committee, including the chief executives of gunmakers Smith and Wesson of Springfield, Mass. and Sturm Ruger and Co. of Southbury, who said jobs would be lost if the bill passed.

Robert Crook of the Hartford-based Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen boasted to Bloomberg News he sent an e-mail to more than 1,800 of his members, telling them if the bill passed, it would "ban your magazines and turn your guns into paper weights."

The gun crowd packed a Judiciary Committee public hearing with hundreds of advocates. Testimony by this "public" was overwhelmingly against the bill during a marathon session that went on for 12 hours. SB 1094 didn't have a chance.

But that was before Newtown. The federal legislation will still be difficult to pass but after Newtown it has the best chance in decades and our senators and others deserve our thanks for raising it.

And we see similar legislation being passed in the coming weeks by a more courageous and, perhaps, a more conscience-stricken Connecticut legislature.

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