Gun-control advocates mobilize over fears of weaker ban

Gun-control advocates moved forcefully Friday to stop what they fear is an attempt to stop a proposed ban on the possession of large-capacity ammo magazines of the kind used in the assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence began a publicity and lobbying blitz to shore up support for a ban on the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, as well as an end to their retail sale in Connecticut.

The push comes as legislative leaders are trying to close a deal on comprehensive, bipartisan gun-violence legislation, including a ban on the retail sale of military-style rifles such as the AR-15 and magazines holding more than 10 rounds.


A 30-round magazine.

Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 and multiple 30-round magazines on Dec. 14 to blast open a locked door at Sandy Hook, then riddle two first-grade classrooms with bullets. He killed 20 children and six women.

Many Republicans and some Democrats are balking at any provision that would force residents to surrender legally purchased firearms or magazines, preferring to simply ban future sales of the rifles and magazines.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the gun-control lobby say a “grandfather provision” is acceptable for firearms, which carry serial numbers allowing owners to show when they were purchased.

But magazines are largely untraceable, meaning that a grandfather provision would allow the indefinite and widespread possession of large-capacity magazines.

“If such a provision is included in the final bill, the ban will have no meaning,” wrote Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, in a letter to legislators.

The letter included a summary of legal cases supporting a ban on possession without offering owners compensation. Owners would be allowed to sell contraband magazines to buyers in state where they still are legal.

Betty Gallo, the lobbyist for the group, said people who have talked to legislative leaders have told them that a ban on possession of the magazines is likely to fall out of the final bill.

It was unclear Friday night if Democrats were trying to accommodate Republicans or were exploring a compromise simply to guarantee enough Democratic votes for passage. Democrats hold nearly a 2-1 advantage in the House and Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, did not return calls for comment. House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, would neither confirm nor deny that large-capacity magazines might remain legal to own, if illegal to buy.

“We’re discussing a lot of things still on the table. It is productive,” Sharkey said. “We’re moving in a positive direction, and everything is still on the table.”

The Democratic legislative leaders and their chiefs of staff met Friday morning with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his chief of staff, Mark Ojakian. Malloy did not threaten a veto if the magazine ban is limited to prospective sales.

Earlier Friday, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission staked out ground on gun control far beyond gun-control groups and the state’s political leadership, including the man who appointed them, Malloy.

The commission, whose review of gun, school security and mental health issues arising from the Newtown tragedy has no connection to legislative negotiations, reached a consensus on recommending a state ban on the sale and possession of any semiautomatic weapon capable of firing more than 10 rounds without reloading.

The recommendation goes far beyond Malloy’s proposal to ban the sale — but not the possession — of weapons defined as assault weapons based on military characteristics such as a pistol grip, collapsible stock or bayonet lug.

“This is a discussion that is happening around every dinner table in America and most of the world: Where should the line be drawn?” said Mayor Scott Jackson of Hamden, the chairman of the commission.

The commission members were untroubled at the prospect that some of the recommendations, which will be sent Monday to Malloy in an interim report, may be set aside as politically unfeasible.

“I didn’t give it any political consideration,” said Bernard R. Sullivan, the former Hartford police chief and state public safety commissioner. “If it passes, it passes.”