Legislative leaders begin talking about gun control bill

Hartford (AP) - Legislative leaders began trying Wednesday to piece together a possible bipartisan bill that addresses the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as a new poll shows strong public support in Connecticut for tougher gun control measures.

Democratic and Republican leaders, who met privately for about two hours, declined to provide details of their discussions but more than one said they are taking it "one day at a time" and planned to meet again today. A vote by the full General Assembly could be scheduled as early as next week.

"We're all there in good faith, and I think we're all working toward the same goal, which is to have a bipartisan, comprehensive, effective agreement," said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk.

Wednesday's meeting marked the first time the General Assembly's top leadership has met since three legislative subcommittees forwarded their recommendations on possible policy and law changes concerning gun violence, school safety and mental health.

In some cases, however, the recommendations were not clear-cut. The gun violence subcommittee forwarded separate Republican and Democratic proposals, with only the Democrats calling for the expansion of the state's assault weapons ban and a ban on large capacity magazines.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday showed strong public support for both measures.

In the poll, 68 percent supporting both an expanded assault weapons ban and a ban on ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds. The poll also showed support for reforms where there's bipartisan agreement, such as universal background checks, a gun offender registry and new permit requirements.

"The Democrats have the upper hand here," Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said. "The public is clearly on the side for gun control measures."

Before Wednesday's meeting, Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said he believes lawmakers should take the Quinnipiac survey of 1,009 registered voters, conducted Monday and Tuesday, to heart as they write the final bill.

"If folks are saying we should have a consensus bill, then look at where the people in the state of Connecticut are," he said. "I think this is a case where the people of this state are leading, and we ought to take note and grab that comprehensive bill that's supported by the vast majority of the people of Connecticut."

Williams said while lawmakers have hoped to craft a bipartisan bill, he's not completely wedded to the idea, saying, "I certainly never promised the outcome would be bipartisan." Ultimately, Williams and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, will have to sign off on the emergency bill to be voted on by the full legislature.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said he's not surprised by the poll's findings. He said he was heartened to see that a number of proposals lawmakers are considering are supported by a large number of gun owners. For example, 71 percent of gun owners support a permit requirement to purchase and carry all guns, 85 percent of gun owners favor a gun offender registry and 65 percent of gun owners support stricter gun storage requirements.

"I think that's something that hopefully all of us will reflect upon," he said.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


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