With open letter on guns, Senate Dems suggest foot dragging by others

In an open letter released late Friday afternoon, the state Senate’s Democratic leaders called for a vote no later than March 13 on gun control legislation in response to the mass shootings in Newtown.

The letter by Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn and Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney of New Haven carries the implicit suggestion that the other leaders need a nudge.

The leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate originally set the end of February as a goal for voting on recommendations from a bipartisan task force.

“The deadline is here, but unfortunately Connecticut is still waiting for results,” Williams and Looney said in their letter.

But it’s been clear for weeks that the task force would not finish its work until next week, when the caucus leaders are then expected to decide what measures will go into an emergency-certified bill.

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said in separate interviews that Williams and Looney are demanding nothing new.

“The letter only asks us to do what we were planning to do,” McKinney said. “I don’t know why they wrote the letter. We’ve scheduled meetings before without letters.”

Sharkey ignored the implicit rebuke of the letter and predicted that a bipartisan, emergency bill will take shape next week.

“I agree with the intent that Sen. Williams and Sen. Looney expressed that we should move forward as quickly as possible,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey said he supports Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s call for a ban on large-capacity ammo magazines, a more expansive definition of firearms covered by the state’s assault weapon ban, and universal background checks on gun purchases.

A task force subcommittee on guns, which is co-chaired by Looney, is expected to issue its recommendations Tuesday.  Williams and Looney say in their letter that the leaders should meet at 3 p.m. to begin negotiating an emergency bill.