Six members of local delegation voted against bill on guns, mental health, schools

Hartford -- Three of the four senators and three of the 10 representatives from southeastern Connecticut voted against the guns, mental health and school secruity bill being signed into law today by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The bill passed 26 to 10 in the Senate and 105 to 44 in the House.

State Representatives Ed Jutila, D-Niantic, Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville and Timothy Bowles, D-Preston, voted against the bill. "My constituents, everyone but two of them, said to vote against the bill," Ryan said on Wednesday.

He said he supports universal background checks. But the bill in general raises a lot of questions. For example, it's not clear how high-capacity magazines would be registered, he said.

Bowles said, "I believe that I am up here at the will of my constituents and I am responding to the majority of my constituents up here."

The seven local representatives who voted in favor of the bill were Reps. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, Edward Moukawsher, D-Groton, Elissa Wright, D-Groton, Ernest Hewett, D-New London, Brian Sear, D-Canterbury, and Emmett Riley, D-Norwich.

"I don't think the bill is perfect, but it is unprecedented work and provides a response to what happened in Newtown," Ritter said on Wednesday.

She said she had worked primarily on the mental health part of the bill and was pleased with the mental health measures. Allowing school boards to offer mental health first aid trainings will help with early identification in young children. The training teaches people how to recognize and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.

The legislature still needs to figure out how to help youth as they get older but this is a "good beginning," Ritter said.

Wright said the bill struck a good balance between public safety and the Second Amendment.

The senators from southeastern Connecticut who voted against the bill were Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, Cathy Osten, D-Sprague and Art Linares, R-Westbrook.

Osten said many from the rural 19th District reached out to her. This bill puts people who purchase weapons for hunting and competition at risk, she said.

Osten said Wednesday, before the vote, that she would like to say that the bill makes changes so that "no one would have to see another dead 6-year-old, that no one would have to respond to a tragedy as significant as what happened down at Sandy Hook. But this legislation does not provide that protection, in my opinion. It puts at risk legal gun owners."

Maynard said his constituents also told him to vote against the bill.

"I went out and I talked to people on every side of the issue for the last two-and-a-half months, and at the end of that process, I had to cast the most challenging vote of my legislative career," Maynard said.

Linares said the bill created "unnecessary harm" for law-abiding citizens. The state needs to focus on mental health to address the tragedy of Sandy Hook, he said.

State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, was the only senator from the region to vote in favor of the bill.

"I am proud to support (this bill) and certainly hope that colleagues here in the circle will do the same," Stillman said on Wednesday. "I believe this bill is a great opportunity for Connecticut to set a framework for other states to follow."

President Barack Obama will visit the University of Hartford on Monday to make another push for federal gun control legislation.

How local delegation voted

Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford
Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington
Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford
Rep. Edward Moukawsher, D-Groton
Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton
Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London
Rep. Brian Sear, D-Canterbury
Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich.

Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington
Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague
Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook.
Rep. Ed Jutila, D-Niantic,
Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville
Rep. Timothy Bowles, D-Preston


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