Legislative Leaders Reach Deal On Guns, School Security, and Mental Health Post Newtown

Apr 1, 2013

State lawmakers have reached a deal on what they're calling some of the toughest gun laws in the country.   As WNPR's Jeff Cohen  reports, the announcement is the product of weeks of bipartisan talks after the Newtown shootings. If it passes, the bill would mean universal background checks for the sale of all firearms.  It would also tighten the state's existing ban on assault weapons, require a background check to buy ammunition, and ban the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. Democrat Don Williams is the state senate president. "In Connecticut, we've broken the mold.  We just put together Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan process on one of the most divisive issues in the United States." Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey says he's satisfied with the deal and that no other legislation on gun control will be heard this session. "We think that we have the best package possible." The legislature has deliberated for weeks over how to best respond to the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  They've held numerous meetings on guns, mental health, and school security.  And advocates on all sides of all of the issues have had a chance to speak their peace. From that process, legislative leaders of both parties took what they understood to be the items that were broadly agreed upon.  And then they spent weeks trying to hammer out a deal. The decision not to ban the possession of all high-capacity magazines has gotten attention.  Should the bill pass, you won't be able to sell them anymore.  But if you already own them, you'll be able to keep them as long as you register them with the state.  There are other restrictions on their use.  But that loophole is something Governor Dannel Malloy and some families of Newtown victims oppose.  Nevertheless, Republican Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said the plan is a work of compromise. "All of us individually might have given things and gotten other things in part of the negotiation process.  This is about a collective 'we,' Republicans and Democrats, coming together." Larry Cafero is the Republican House Minority Leader. He says law-abiding gun owners have nothing to fear. "No gun owners will lose their gun, no gun owner will lose their magazine, they will not lose the use of said gun or magazine, so long as they follow our rules and register them.  Are there tighter restrictions on their use, et cetera?  Absolutely." Cafero says there is substantial support in his Republican caucus for the plan. A vote on the bill is expected Wednesday.  For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.