Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, site of the Sandy Hook school massacre, called for broadening the state’s ban on assault weapons to include the type of rifle used in the killings, lowering magazine capacities to 10 from 30 and expanding background checks.
Malloy, a 57-year-old Democrat, outlined the proposal in a speech today at a gun-control symposium at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, which is about 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the site of the shootings. The seminar also featured Vice President Joe Biden, the point man for President Barack Obama’s firearms initiatives.
“The horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought home the fact that we are not immune to problems that face the nation at large, that we can never become complacent in our effort to ensure the safety of our residents,” Malloy said.
The governor wants to broaden the state’s ban on assault weapons to include the AR-15 Bushmaster rifle that authorities say Adam Lanza used in the Dec. 14 shooting spree that killed 20 children and six adults. It would also close weapon-permitting loopholes, according to his office.
Under Malloy’s plan, background checks would be required before “the transfer of any firearm in any circumstance,” according a summary released by his office. Dealers would have to keep electronic records of all firearms and ammunition purchased or sold. Gun owners would have until Oct. 1 to sell, modify or turn into police any magazines that allow more than 10 rounds, according to the plan.
Democratic governors at least 10 other states are pushing to strengthen gun-control regulations in the wake of Sandy Hook. Neighboring New York was the first to harden laws after the massacre, approving a measure that expanded a ban on assault rifles and limited magazine rounds to seven.
Biden, who spoke after Malloy, praised him for his proposal and for his leadership since Dec. 14.
“Would that it be that every governor acted as swiftly, decisively and courageously as you,” Biden said.
“There are going to be a lot of voices in this debate,” the vice president told the audience. “I’m determined that the loudest voices will be for the people who lost their voices” to gun violence.
Malloy’s move reverses his earlier position that he would wait for recommendations from the 16-member Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, which he appointed to suggest changes to state laws. The commission is due to report its findings in mid-March.
It also comes as progress by a separate bipartisan legislative panel on gun safety is stalling, with lawmakers missing a self-imposed deadline to report a consensus recommendation on gun laws last week. Other panels on mental illness and school safety are making progress.
“We run a risk of letting this critical moment in history pass us by,” Malloy said.
Connecticut is home to six gun manufacturers, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group: Sturm Ruger & Co. (RGR:US), Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Co., Colt Defense LLC, Stag Arms, Charter Arms and O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc. New Britain-based Ammunition Storage Components makes 30-round magazines.
The industry employs about 7,300 in the state and contributed $119 million in tax revenue in 2011, according to the NSSF. Charter Arms calls the region “the cradle of the American firearms industry.”
The trade group said in a statement that the firearms industry is “troubled” by Malloy’s “apparent change in attitude” toward the bipartisan legislative process and the commission he appointed.
“We do not believe a rush to quick-fix legislation is likely to produce real public-safety solutions, while it holds the clear potential to hurt good-paying manufacturing jobs in our state,” the group said.
About 5,500 gun-control activists marched on the statehouse in Hartford last week, and leaders of the movement expressed frustration that the Connecticut General Assembly missed the deadline for bipartisan agreement.
“It is disappointing,” said Nancy Lefkowitz, a co-founder of March for Change, the group that organized the rally, in an interview before Malloy’s decision. “We just have to keep the pressure on.”
Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, so Republican votes aren’t needed to pass gun measures. Republicans typically oppose gun-control measures.
“It would be good if we could have a bipartisan bill; it would be sending a message that on a matter of urgent concern the parties can set their differences aside,” said state Senator Martin Looney, a Democrat, in an interview before Malloy’s announcement.
“Bipartisan is important, but not the single most compelling thing,” said Looney, who is the co-chair of a legislative panel on gun violence prevention.
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