Connecticut’s governor, top Senate leader and gun-control advocates praised the broad changes to gun laws adopted Tuesday by New York in response to the Newtown shooting tragedy, calling them a strong starting point for reform.
In praising the quick action, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he had no regrets that Connecticut was moving slower than its neighbor in devising a policy response to the shooting of 26 students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“Given what our state has gone through and given the expressed desire of parents at Sandy Hook, specifically, to be involved in the process, I’m not envious of how rapidly they are moving,” Malloy said. “We’re in a different situation, where it’s important that we give an opportunity for multiple voices to be heard and then act.”
The New York law bans gun magazines of more than seven rounds, expands the definition of banned so-called assault weapons, and requires background checks to buy guns and ammunition. It also expands the state’s ability to seize guns or block their purchase by the mentally ill.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law about an hour after it won final approval from the State Assembly on a 104-to-43 vote, making New York the first state to act after Newtown. The state Senate voted 43 to 18 to pass the bill Monday, exactly one month after the shooting.
“They’ve gone to seven. Sounds good to me,” Malloy said of the restrictions on ammo magazines. “They have taken a step in the direction of universal gun-permitting and background checks. The back ground checks certainly makes perfect sense to me.”
Malloy said he wants to review more closely the mental-health aspects of the law.
“It’s pretty impressive in my opinion, the breadth of that bill, ” Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn said. “We’re going to dig into the details on that.”
Gun-control advocates say an important aspect of state laws passed after Newtown is that they may change the political environment, building pressure on Congress to consider measures that are not politically feasible now.
“That’s what makes Congress move,” said Kim Harrison, a gun-control lobbyist in Connecticut. “We should look at New York as a starting-off point for us.”
Earlier Tuesday, Connecticut legislative leaders announced a bipartisan legislative task force on gun violence that will hold hearings and recommend legislation to be adopted by the end of February.
“Taking quick action is important, but taking smart action is more important,” said House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. “We haven’t even had a chance to digest what is being proposed and passed in New York State. I think we owe it to the public to be careful in what we do — move quickly and respond quickly, but do it in an intelligent way.”
“We’re going to look at every option that’s out there with the goal of taking strong and decisive action as quickly as possible, especially in the areas that protect our children and our communities,” Williams said.
Sharkey and Williams were joined by the leaders of the legislature’s Republican minorities, Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. of Norwalk and Sen. John McKinney of Fairfield, whose district includes Newtown.
McKinney said the parents of Sandy Hook want to start a national conversation on guns.
“Our role as state legislators is to play a part in that conversation, to have conversations among ourselves, conversations with experts, conversations with our constituents,” McKinney said.
The task force of senior legislators appears to be an effort to impose some discipline and control on the legislative response to Newtown. Some lawmakers have floated ideas that have generated headlines and heated opposition with no chance of passage.
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, for example, has proposed banning all firearms capable of firing more than one shot, an idea that Meyer acknowledged Tuesday has no significant legislative support. Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, has proposed a 50-percent tax on ammunition, another idea unlikely to go forward.
Legislative leaders of both parties say their goal is to agree on proposals involving gun control, mental health and school safety that can go into an emergency-certified bill, a process that bypasses normal public hearing and committee processes. The leaders expressed a desire to move quickly, but not hastily.
Malloy already named a Sandy Hook advisory commission, charged with making its initial recommendations in March. It is composed of citizens outside government with an expertise in public safety, school security and mental health.
Follow Mark Pazniokas on Twitter @CtMirrorPaz