Conn. State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, will be at the center of the debate on reducing gun violence with 17 proposed bills that expand the ban on assault weapons and the need for permits, and increase the reasons authorities may consider to deny those permits.
One bill would amend the statute on "suitability" to own a firearm and give the police or town official in charge of permits the right to require applicants to allow the release of documents, such as medical records, that they believe will help in determining who should have guns.
Another bill would eliminate the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, which would require applicants denied a permit to appeal directly to the Superior Court. There is also a bill to increase the age at which one could purchase a pistol or revolver to 21 and age 18 for a rifle or shotgun.
Looney, along with state Rep. Craig Minor, R-Litchfield, are the co-chairmen of the working subgroup on gun safety as part of the 50-member Bipartisan Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety task force named to respond to the mass killings at Sandy Hook.
Adam Lanza, 20, using his mother's Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, shot to death 20 children and six staff members of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, a tragedy that has sparked a national debate on guns, mental health and school safety.
"These are a compendium of issues that we have been thinking about for some time, and now believe we have an opportunity to move on this year because the climate for potential regulation has changed obviously in the wake of what happened in Newtown," Looney said.
Some of the proposals overlap with those suggested by the Connecticut Conference of Mayors and other lawmakers, including state Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and state Rep. Robert Godfrey, D-Danbury, and others, with almost 100 bills introduced so far touching on the three areas under review.
The hearing today at the state Legislative Office Building at 10 a.m. is expected to attract a huge crowd of gun rights activists, as well as those who want more controls on firearms.
The Capitol police have opted to use metal detectors to screen those intending to attend the hearing, which could continue past midnight.
In the morning there will also be press conferences by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, with representatives of Connecticut gun manufacturers emphasizing the jobs they create, and the Connecticut Education Association will release a poll taken of its members on gun control and school safety.
Since the state enacted an assault ban in 1993, it amended it once, but subsequent attempts to ban large capacity magazines beyond 10 bullets, keep ammunition out of the hands of those prohibited from having guns, as well as maintaining a database of gun offenders for law enforcement access failed to advance in the legislature. All of those are coming back for consideration.
On the issue of suitability, Looney said police chiefs wanted more time to review permits, increasing the time to 12 weeks from eight.
The majority leader said the release of medical records could determine psychiatric issues that should be taken into consideration.
Much has been made of the intersection of mental health and access to guns and the need for treatment options, but also how to intervene more quickly on keeping weapons out of the hands of those with serious mental illness.
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