Connecticut Panel Split on Gun Control Proposals

A bipartisan panel of Connecticut lawmakers failed to agree on strengthening gun-control laws and instead sent separate sets of recommendations to legislative leaders in response to December’s mass shooting in Newtown.

Democrats on the 16-member Gun Violence Prevention Working Group backed expanding an assault-weapons ban to include the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and limiting magazines to 10 rounds from 30 -- two steps Republicans didn’t recommend yesterday. Both sides supported universal background checks for weapons buyers.

The split means Democrats must decide whether to draft a bill without the disputed items or proceed with a measure similar to proposals advanced by gun-control advocates and Governor Dan Malloy, a Democrat. Legislative leaders from both parties had said in January they wanted to find a bipartisan consensus on the issue. The Newtown slaughter was the nation’s second-worst school shooting.

“I thought we would reach a consensus, but like many things in life this has been a learning experience,” said state Representative Craig Miner of Litchfield, the Republican co-chairman of the panel. “Many of these issues cannot be resolved in two months.”

Legislative leaders convened the committee in January to examine Connecticut’s gun laws, the mental-health system and school safety in response to the Dec. 14 Newtown killings of 20 children and six educators. The massacre of 32 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2007 was the worst school shooting in the U.S.

Ominous Silence

Malloy last month urged lawmakers to expand the ban on assault weapons, reduce the capacity of ammunition magazines and require background checks on all firearms sales -- a move that beat the committee to the punch. Malloy unveiled his plan Feb. 21 at an event near Newtown attended by Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen gun controls.

Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey of Hamden and Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn, both Democrats, have promised to bring an emergency gun-control bill to the floor this session. Democrats hold the majority in both chambers and don’t need Republican support to pass legislation.

Lawmakers on the panel also agreed on changes such as banning armor-piercing ammunition, increasing penalties for gun crimes, creating a registry for those convicted of firearms offenses and requiring such offenders to check in with police for five years.

“I think we do have broad consensus on many things,” said Senator Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat and co-chairman of the gun-control panel.

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