A gun-control group Tuesday issued the toughest proposals yet for new Connecticut restrictions on firearms after the Dec. 14 Newtown school massacre.
The measures include annual renewals of pistol permits, a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than seven bullets, and a requirement that all assault weapons be destroyed rather than "grandfathered" so current owners can keep theirs.
The head of the Fairfield-based group, called Connecticut Against Gun Violence, expressed optimism that the tough proposals would become law despite the legislature's unwillingness in past years to pass lesser restrictions and even though at least 1,000 gun-rights supporters rallied at the state Capitol against passage of such bills.
"I think the chances are good [because] this is what the people want," said Ron Pinciaro, executive director of the non-profit group. "Since Dec. 14 the floodgates have opened; we've been hit by a tidal wave of people who want something done about this. … they don't think their children are safe anymore."
"They don't think the solution is arming the schools, and the teachers and the principals," Pinciaro said.
Many gun-control bills have been proposed in the legislature after the Dec. 14 killing of 20 first-graders and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed himself as police arrived.
Both the governor and legislative leaders have launched task forces to study Newtown-related issues, and lawmakers are talking about passing at least one big, "comprehensive" bill involving gun control, school security and mental health. The legislative task force, which is soliciting public testimony, established a website on Tuesday: http://www.cga.ct.gov/asaferconnecticut.
In general, lawmakers so far haven't been discussing restrictions as tight as those proposed Tuesday by the gun control group. Pinciaro called the group's proposals "the most ambitious … in our state's history." They would:
--Expand the state's existing ban on assault weapons, as others have already proposed, but would add what Pinciaro called a "unique" provision: Rather than allowing owners to retain existing rifles defined as "assault weapons" under a "grandfather clause," it would require that "existing weapons defined as assault weapons be destroyed, turned in to law enforcement or removed from the state."
--Ban "large-capacity ammunition magazines" of more than seven rounds, and require that any existing ones containing more than that be destroyed, turned in, or removed from the state. New York state last week adopted the seven-round magazine limit.
--Require permits and background checks on all sales and transfers of guns, including rifles. Permits are not now required in Connecticut for rifles, although they are for pistols.
--Require annual renewal for all pistol registrations — including an annual fee and background check. Pinciaro said most homicides are committed with handguns and by people who obtained them illegally. If a handgun owner has to certify every year that he still owns a gun he bought, it lets law enforcement authorities "get a handle on how many guns are being diverted into the illegal market," Pinciaro said.
--Restrict handgun purchases to one per person per month.
--"Make gun owners liable for negligent storage if any person gains access to firearms and injures himself or another person, or causes damage to property. The violation would be a Class D felony."
--Make it more difficult and cumbersome to obtain and firearms and ammunition online.
--Tax ammunition sales and require a license or permit to buy ammunition.
Connecticut Against Gun Violence was backed in its recommendations by a new group called "March for Change," founded after the Newtown shootings by Nancy Lefkowitz and Meg Staunton of Fairfield, two mothers of students in elementary or middle schools.
"We are the passion behind the politics," Lefkowitz said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We're the noise that is supporting this legislation."
She said her group is planning a rally at the Capitol on Feb. 14. Noting that the gun-rights rally had 1,000 or so attendees, Lefkowitz said flatly: "We'll have more than that."
A comment from Staunton was included in the gun-control group's press release Tuesday: "We have reached a tipping point and it's time we let our legislators know where we stand."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun