Panel to call for changes in state gun laws

Hartford - The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is planning, among other things, to recommend prohibiting the sale or possession of any firearm capable of firing more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading, commission chairman and Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson said on Friday.

The purpose is to define an assault-style weapon by how it works rather than how it looks, said Bernard Sullivan, commission member and former Hartford chief of police. The recommendation and other proposals will be passed on to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on March 15.

But the recommendation was met with some resistance.

"I think it will go too far," said Barbara O'Conner, commission member and chief of police at the University of Connecticut. She said it would make too many guns that people currently possess illegal.

"The question in my mind is, are we really serious in our society about dealing with the amount of firepower on our streets?" Sullivan said.

The commission agreed on gun control and school safety recommendations on Friday. But Jackson said more work is needed to flesh out the proposals. The commission has yet to fully discuss recommendations for mental health services, he said.

The commission also plans to recommend "mandatory background checks on the sale or transfer of any weapon, including long guns and private sales," according the commission's document listing items for consideration.

Even someone who gave a firearm as a gift to a family member would have to go through a background check, Sullivan said.

One way to enforce a background check during a private sale would be to have the sale processed with a gun dealer who has a federal firearms license, said Wayne Sandford, commission member and former deputy commissioner of the state's Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS).

The commission also wants "mandatory registration, including a certificate of registration, for any weapon, to be issued subsequent to the completion of a background check," according to its document.

Commission members said they planned to exempt law enforcement and military personnel from many of their recommendations.

Emergency response plans

The commission will propose that school districts be required to develop emergency response plans.

Commission member and Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy said that in Norwalk, a 25-person team is in the process of updating its school district's plan. The group meets about once every two weeks, and participants include representatives from the elementary, middle and high schools as well as police department representatives, firefighters and public health officials.

Currently, universities have to send their emergency response plans to DEMHS, but the commission wants to require the same of preschools and K-12 schools. It also wants DEMHS to be required to approve the plans, Jackson said.

DEMHS Deputy Commissioner William Shea said Friday that state agencies worked well together in response to the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting. As soon as DEMHS heard of the shooting, its regional officer in Waterbury was sent down there, he said.

McCarthy said he thought DEMHS and the state's immediate response to Newtown set the bar, but that Connecticut needs to make sure every community has the same level of preparedness.

j.somers@theday.com

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