While a couple of its recommendations may be politically untenable, the proposals released Monday by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission would give Connecticut gun control measures that are among the toughest in the country.
In honor of the 20 children and six women who were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, and for greater public safety, Connecticut ought to have the toughest gun laws in the country.
REGISTER ALL FIREARMS
The commission, appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Jan. 3, was asked to review public safety and mental health policies and recommend improvements. This work will continue; the report issued Monday was interim and meant to send "early consensus recommendations" to the 2013 session of the General Assembly.
The commission reached some of the same conclusions that others, including Mr. Malloy, have put forward on universal background checks, safer gun storage, limits on ammunition sales and the banning of magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.
The commission found that some firearms are required to be registered in the state, and some require a permit to carry, but that these requirements are not uniform. Some firearms can be obtained without permit or registration — which helps straw purchasers get guns to criminals.
The report says there are 1.4 million registered firearms and up to 2 million unregistered guns in Connecticut alone. To lower the number of unregistered guns, the commission recommends mandatory registration and permits for all guns, as well as background checks at gun shows and any other place where firearms are sold.
REDEFINE ASSAULT WEAPONS
The commission's best contribution may be its discussion of so-called assault weapons. Defining them by their military characteristics (bayonet stud, folding stock, barrel shroud, etc.), as state law now does, has allowed the gun industry to change the external appearance and keep the guns legal, without in any way reducing their capacity to kill. "Defining an 'assault weapon' by form rather than function has been ineffective," the report says.
Guns such as the AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook massacre are civilian versions of military weapons. They are lightweight, and many enthusiasts like to use them for target shooting. On the other hand, the pistol grip, barrel shroud, flash suppressor, etc., were created for military use to facilitate the killing of human beings, and they do their work well.
Which is why these guns keep showing up in mass shootings, and in a fair number of violent confrontations with police. Indeed, a study by the Violence Policy Center of 235 incidents involving assault-style weapons between 2005 and 2007 found police involved in 27.2 percent of them. That by itself should tip the balance toward tight control of these guns.
BAN 10-PLUS ROUNDS
If lethality is connected to capacity, as most mass shootings suggest, then the key would be to reduce capacity. To do this, the commission says the state should consider banning any firearm, including handguns, that is capable of firing more than 10 rounds without reloading.
A ban means current owners would have to give them up. Mr. Malloy said he does not support a retroactive ban on legally owned firearms; his proposal would expand the existing ban going forward.
The commission's position is not unsound. Firearm bans with grandfather clauses don't work very well, or at least take a long time to show results. On the other hand, a retroactive ban is likely to meet considerable opposition from the thousands of state residents who own the weapons and the companies here who make them, making it politically challenging.
This page supports a strengthened ban on assault-style weapons; they are dangerous and only appropriate for military and police use.
At the very least, as it formulates its gun control package, the legislature must ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. This will somewhat reduce the capacity to kill.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun