HARTFORD, Conn. - Responding to one of the worst crimes in state history, Connecticut lawmakers were expected to pass a package of gun control and other measures, described by supporters as the most comprehensive in the country.
Debate on the far-reaching legislation, negotiated by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, was expected to begin late Wednesday morning. It could last for hours. Both gun rights advocates and gun control supporters are expected to show up in large numbers.
Some of the measures would take effect right away, including expansion of the state's assault weapons ban, background checks for all firearms sales, and a ban on the sale or purchase of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. The bill also addresses mental health and school security measures, including $15 million to help pay for school security infrastructure upgrades.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he'll sign the legislation into law, even though it would allow people to keep their high-capacity magazines so long as they're registered with the state by Jan. 1, 2014.
"I think you can make an argument, a strong argument, this is the toughest law passed anywhere in the country," he said.
But gun rights advocates question whether the legislation would have done anything to stop Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who blasted his way in to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 24. State police say he fired off 154 shots with a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle as he gunned down 20 first graders and six educators. He had earlier killed his mother, Nancy, and later committed suicide.
Search warrants of the Lanzas' Newtown home showed it was packed with weapons and ammunition.
"If it did something to prevent this incident, where the fault lies with the individual and the mother, not with the legitimate gun owners in this state, then we could probably support something," said Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen.
Crook said he expects the bill will pass, predicting it will likely be challenged in court.