The perils of gun-control overload

Now that the Connecticut General Assembly's Public Safety and Security Committee has approved some of the state's first post-Sandy Hook gun control legislation, including proposed bills that would mandate background checks for private sales and require permits for gun shows, momentum should properly build for even tougher regulations.

Long before the Dec. 14 shooting spree in Newtown that claimed the lives of 20 youngsters and six educators, this newspaper has consistently advocated for stricter laws to curb gun violence, and so we applaud Tuesday's vote in Hartford. The bills are now being considered in the state Senate.

At the same time we are concerned that with various local, state and federal authorities acting independently on separate measures, some necessary laws could become victims of governmental overload.

The average citizen doubtlessly finds it difficult keeping track of so many entities weighing new regulations, absorbing their findings and putting them into perspective.

Consider: Immediately after the shootings Gov. Dannel P. Malloy created the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and gave it until this month to come up with recommendations. Soon afterward legislative leaders created their own bipartisan task force.

Then last month, when Vice President Joe Biden joined the state's congressional delegation and other officials at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury for a day-long conference on gun violence, Gov. Malloy announced his own five-point reform plan.

In addition, Congress is considering federal legislation, though we have little faith in the adoption of meaningful reform given the pervasive, pernicious influence of the gun lobby. Just Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that because of the unlikelihood of approval, he will pass on to the full Senate a bill that does not include a ban on so-called assault weapons, including the semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 rifle Adam Lanza used in his rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Evidently, lobbyists from the National Rifle Association and the firearms manufacturer twisted enough arms in Washington for Sen. Reid to see the light - but apparently those insidious forces know enough not to press their case in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant reported Tuesday that only eight days before the Sandy Hook shootings, Connecticut economic development officials offered Freedom Group, Bushmaster's holding company, a $1 million, low-interest loan to move 25 executives and its headquarters from Madison, N.C. to Stamford.

Four days after the shootings state authorities quietly withdrew their offer, and Bushmaster wisely let the matter drop.

The company knew that even Connecticut, with such a long history in weapons manufacturing, would not tolerate its presence - and likewise the state must not tolerate indifference to reasonable, stricter gun control.

We should take heart that public sentiment has swayed in favor of stricter controls. Even Colorado, a state ordinarily on the Second Amendment advocacy end of the gun spectrum, adopted a package of gun-control measures Wednesday. This action, incidentally, came one day after the shooting death of Colorado's prisons chief.

While this newspaper commends Connecticut's task force and legislature for moving forward on a smorgasbord of new regulations, we suggest they consider rallying behind Gov. Malloy's consolidated, yet comprehensive, plan.

It would require background checks for all firearm purchases, end the exemption for private sales and sales at gun shows, require police to record all private transfers of firearms, strengthen the ban on military-style assault weapons by broadening the definition of what constitutes such a weapon, ban possession of magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets and expand the requirement to get a permit, now only for handguns, to include rifles and shotguns other than traditional hunting and sporting weapons. In addition, the list of crimes that would make someone ineligible for a permit would be expanded.

These straightforward initiatives cover the main goals of reform neatly and concisely.

By considering so many peripheral issues, legislators risk getting caught up in petty squabbles or simply, as so often is the case, running out of time.

We can't afford to let that happen.

A particularly cynical rule of government - never let a serious crisis go to waste - demands that we, as a state and a nation, must finally take common-sense yet decisive steps to avoid another familiar dictum: Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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