Bipartisan gun control bill unveiled in Hartford

Hartford - With bipartisan consensus, legislative leaders put forth a bill Monday that requires universal background checks, expands Connecticut's assault weapons ban and bans the sale of large-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds.

The bill, though, does not propose banning the possession of large-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds, as proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

"These will be some of the strongest laws on high-capacity magazines in America," said Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn. "… I have talked to some of the experts across the country that have told me that first and foremost, turning off the spigot is critical."

Family members of victims of the Newtown school shooting came to the state Capitol on Monday to say that a ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines should be included in the bill.

"Whether it's in the larger bill or as an amendment, the families, and every resident of our state, deserve a vote," Malloy said.

But legislative leaders said they would be voting for the bill that was before them. They said they expected a vote in both the Senate and the House on Wednesday.

"There is nothing that will comfort them (family members of victims) in their pain, but I think they understand that we will upon passage have the most comprehensive gun laws in the country, and I am proud of that fact," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield.

The leaders said they were hopeful and expectant that Malloy would sign the emergency certified bill even though it did not include the ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines. An emergency certified bill is a bill that does not go through the regular committee process.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said he is discouraging his caucus' members from proposing amendments to the bill or causing a lengthy debate. House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he had told his caucus members that he would not be supporting any amendments to the bill.

Sharkey said the House will not be taking up other gun legislation this session. But he added it would be looking at what comes from the governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.

"It is definitely our understanding that there will be no further gun legislation" this session, Cafero added.

Under current law, private sales of rifles and shotguns are not regulated while the sale of a pistol or a revolver by a licensed dealer does require a criminal background check, according to the proposed bill.

This bill proposes, immediately upon passage, that no pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun may be sold to any Connecticut resident until the buyer passes a National Criminal Background Check. This is required whether it is a private sale, a gun show sale or a sale through a dealer. One exception is that someone may bequeath a firearm to someone in their will, but that person would have to be determined to be eligible for the firearm by the executor of the estate, Cafero said.

Current law defines 66 banned assault weapons, but that would increase to more than 100, according to the proposed bill.

The measure would also be effective on the date of passage. Those who already own the weapons that would be newly added to the assault weapons ban would have to register their assault weapons with the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

This bill proposes, upon passage, to ban the sale or purchase of large-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

A ban on the possession of large-capacity magazines was not included in the bill, but people who currently own a large-capacity magazine with more than 10 rounds would have to register it with Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection by Jan. 1, 2014.

"After January 1, 2014, any LCM (large-capacity magazine) that has not been the subject of such a declaration cannot be legally possessed under any circumstances (even if it had been possessed before the effective date)," according to the proposed bill.

"Every high-capacity magazine that is legal, we will know where they are and who owns them. That is unique among the fifty states," Cafero said.

If someone does not report their large-capacity magazines, and are caught, they would be a felon, Cafero said.

"You would risk losing all of your guns and also risk losing the ability to ever own a gun again," Cafero said.

It would be a class D felony to possess a large-capacity magazine as of Jan. 1, 2014 that was not registered, according to the proposed bill. A class D felony is punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

There would also be limits on where someone can use a large-capacity magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds, according to the proposal.

For example, someone could not load more than 10 bullets in their old 30-round high-capacity magazine anywhere other than in the individual's home or on the premises of a shooting range.

Besides universal background checks, an expanded assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines, the bill proposes to require a state-issued certificate for the purchase of rifles, shotguns or ammunition.

As of Oct. 1, 2013, Connecticut residents would be required to show "either a permit to carry a pistol or revolver, an eligibility certificate for a pistol or revolver, a long gun eligibility certificate, a firearms dealer permit, or a combination of an ammunition eligibility certificate and a state issued photo ID" to purchase ammunition or an ammunition magazine, according to the proposed bill.

Therefore, to purchase ammunition or a magazine legally, Connecticut residents would have to pass a National Criminal Background Check.

The long gun eligibility certificate and ammunition certificate are part of the new bill.

"Never before has an eligibility certificate been required for the purchase of a long gun," Cafero said.

The long gun certificate means the person would have to go through firearms safety training, be fingerprinted and go through a National Criminal Background Check and involuntary commitment/voluntary admission check, according to the proposed bill.

If the bill passes, a long gun eligibility certificate would be required to purchase any rifle or shotgun as of April 1, 2014.

The ammunition eligibility certificate would go into effect Oct. 1, 2013.

The bill also proposes the first statewide dangerous weapon offender registry in the nation. This bill requires individuals who have been convicted of any of more than 40 specific weapons offenses or another felony that the court decides involves the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon to register with DESPP.

One way that the bill addresses gun control and mental health is to not permit individuals who have been involuntarily committed by order of the Probate Court to a psychiatric hospital within the past five years, to possess a firearm or receive a permit of eligibility certificate. Previously this time period only went back 12 months.

People who voluntarily admit themselves to a psychiatric hospital would also not be able to possess a firearm or receive a permit or eligibility certificate for the six months following their release from the hospital under the new law. Currently, voluntary admittance is not addressed in Connecticut's law.

"No one will be able to say that this bill is absolutely perfect, but no one will also be able to say that this bill fails the test when it comes to being the strongest in the country, the most comprehensive bill in the country," said Williams.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said, "There is still more work to do in the future, but it's a good year. This couldn't have happened in any other state in any other year."

j.somers@theday.com

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