News Column

Legislators Hear From Police, Gun Manufacturers, Victims' Families

Jan. 28, 2013

Johanna Somers

As testimony continued before the legislature's gun violence prevention subcommittee meeting Monday afternoon, speakers included Newtown families, law enforcement and gun manufacturers, to be followed by Connecticut residents and dozens of legislators.

Hundreds of people pressed through metal detectors and squeezed into the room as the hearing started.

"This is not about the right to bear arms. It is about the right to bear weapons with the capacity for mass destruction. Speed kills," said Veronique Pozner, mother of Noah Samuel Pozner. She was one of three parents who lost children at Sandy Hook to speak at the meeting. She said she wanted a comprehensive ban on assault weapons, no grandfathering of banned weapons, high-capacity magazine limits and firearm registration.

Neil Heslin, the father of 6-year-old Newtown victim Jesse Lewis, also wants a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-type weapons. Mark Mattioli, the father of 6-year-old James Mattioli, said there are already enough gun laws on the books and that those laws needed to be enforced.

Early in the meeting the legislators received "Gun Training 101," which subcommittee co-chair and state Rep. Craig Minor, R-Litchfield, said should be left for another day to leave this time for residents.

But the training went ahead. Trooper First Class Joseph Delehanty, of the firearms training unit of the state's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, explained which weapons were handguns and long guns. Law enforcement officials told legislators that owners of long guns such as the Bushmaster, which was used in the Sandy Hook shooting, do not have to undergo background checks when purchasing a long gun from an individual as opposed to from a retail store.

Cromwell Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association representative, said he wanted this type of loophole closed and wanted the permitting process strengthened. He said he wants local police chiefs to be the ones vetting gun purchases.

The association also wants the legislature to require permits for long guns, he said. The chiefs want permit applications limited to one per year per person. If an individual were denied a permit, he or she would not be eligible to reapply for at least one year.

Salvatore said police chiefs want more time to evaluate gun permit applications. They have eight weeks to issue a permit under current law and would like to have 12 weeks for more time to get fingerprints back from the state and federal governments, he said.

Lawrence Keene, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said he spoke for many gun manufacturers deeply saddened by the "grotesque shooting," who welcome the opportunity to participate in the violence reduction discussion.

Numerous gun manufacturers spoke after Keene about the economic impact gun manufacturers have on Connecticut.

Dennis Veilleux, chief executive officer of Colt Manufacturing, said its facility in West Hartford provides 670 jobs. Joyce Rubino, chief operating officer of Colt, said the company has been working to increase commercial operations over the past several years, investing more than $10 million in new equipment and machinery. Five years ago they had 100 employees in their handgun operation -- now 200 -- and they have gone from a $20 million operation then to more than $125 million now, she said.

"This industry is a livelihood for many employees and their families... in the state of Connecticut," she said.

Source: (c)2013 The Day (New London, Conn.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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