Connecticut passes new gun law
Updated: 2013-04-05 01:45
By Agencies in Hartford, Connecticut (China Daily/Agencies)
Tough legislation follows deadly shooting at elementary school
US President Barack Obama hugs Jane Dougherty (right), sister of Mary Sherlach, the Newtown elementary school psychologist who was killed, after speaking about tightening gun regulations during a visit to the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Connecticut lawmakers voted on Thursday to approve a new gun-control bill in response to last December's shooting at a school in Newtown in which 20 children and six adults were killed.
Newtown school gunman Adam Lanza is seen in an undated photo. Lanza fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes when he killed 20 children and six adults and himself at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school on Dec 14. Western Connecticut State University via Reuters
After nearly eight hours of debate that lasted until early Thursday morning, the House voted 105-44 in favor of the bill, which supporters described as one of the toughest in the United States.
It followed a 26-10 vote in the Senate on Wednesday evening. Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat who pushed for passage of the law, is expected to sign it on Thursday.
Opponents said the bill infringed the rights to gun ownership protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
The new law would require background checks for private gun sales, ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips of the kind used at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and require current owners of those large clips to register them with the state.
The legislation was proposed after the Dec 14 attack, in which a gunman used clips that held 30 bullets to fire off 154 rounds in less than five minutes.
Owners of existing clips capable of holding 10 or more bullets would be required to register them with the state. Owning an unregistered high-capacity clip would become a felony offense as of Jan 1, 2014.
Both chambers in Connecticut's legislature are controlled by Democrats, with 99 Democrats and 52 Republicans in the House, and 22 Democrats and 14 Republicans in the Senate.
The measure would also expand the number of weapons covered by Connecticut's assault weapons ban and establishes a $15 million fund to help schools improve security infrastructure.
The Newtown elementary school massacre reignited a national debate on gun control, and Obama has made gun safety one of the defining issues of his second term, which started a month after the shooting.
His proposed gun control measures have largely stalled in Congress, however, and Obama has planned a trip to Connecticut on Monday to increase pressure on lawmakers in Washington.
Obama visited Colorado on Wednesday and repeated his call for universal background checks for gun buyers — a measure that has better chances of winning enough support in Congress than an assault weapons ban or limits on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Obama's visit was heavy with political symbolism because Colorado recently expanded gun control laws despite being a western, largely rural state where gun ownership is a cherished right. Colorado suffered two of the worst mass shootings in US history — at Columbine school in 1999 and at a movie theater last year. It has expanded background checks for gun purchases and placed restrictions on ammunition magazines.
Obama said Colorado's action shows "there doesn't have to be a conflict" between keeping citizens safe and protecting the right to bear firearms guaranteed by the US Constitution".
But the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby maintains that more guns keep people safer and has succeeded in blocking many efforts to impose stricter gun controls.
And several county sheriffs in Colorado have vowed not to enforce the new gun restrictions.
Details of the Connecticut bill
• Background checks for private gun sales
• Ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips
• Require current owners of those large clips to register them with the state
Australia's regulations a template for US
Former Australian prime minister John Howard wore a bulletproof vest under his suit when he addressed an angry crowd of gun owners in 1996, telling them he was going to ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons for the safety of all Australians.
The battle for gun control in Australia, after the country's worst massacre in which 35 people were shot dead, was risky both personally and politically. Howard alienated a large part of his conservative, rural base and was almost thrown from office.
But the gun reforms made Australia a safer place, with fewer homicides and suicides, and Howard is now urging US President Barack Obama to take his gun-control campaign to the people, just as they did, to gain a consensus.
"I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn't be easy," Howard wrote in the New York Times earlier this year.