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Conn. Lawmakers Propose Strict Gun Laws After Newtown Shooting


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

In Connecticut, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has agreed on what it calls the toughest gun laws in the nation. But they're still not tough enough, say some state gun control advocates. They're concern: No outright ban on high-capacity magazines, like the ones Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Jeff Cohen from member station WNPR has our story.

JEFF COHEN, BYLINE: Mark Barden's son Daniel was killed in Newtown. Three months later, he and others came to the state capitol to urge lawmakers to act.

MARK BARDEN: Every time a gunman has to reload the magazine, it's an opportunity for lives, for people to escape, and for somebody to hopefully stop the shooter.

COHEN: Barden and families of 10 other Sandy Hook victims pushed for an outright ban on magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. Lawmakers stopped short of that. If the bill passes, the sale of the magazines will be banned but not their possession. If you already own them, you can keep them as long as you register them with the state and follow other rules.

Still, Connecticut lawmakers say only seven states and the District of Columbia have any limits at all on the legal size of magazines. And even though they didn't get everything they wanted, some Sandy Hook families say they're happy with the bill.

Larry Cafero is the Republican House minority leader.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE LARRY CAFERO: No gun owner will lose their gun, no gun owner will lose their magazine, they will not lose the use of said gun or magazine, so long as they follow our rules and register them. Are there tighter restrictions on their use, et cetera? Absolutely.

COHEN: The deal also includes background checks for the sale of all firearms and ammunition, expands the state's ban on assault weapons, and strengthens gun storage laws.

Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy says he's confident the bill will pass and he'll sign it when it does. And he says people who say these new measures wouldn't have prevented an event similar to Newtown are wrong.

GOVERNOR DANNEL MALLOY: If Mrs. Lanza had not been able to purchase guns, the likes of which she purchased, then Mr. Lanza, Adam, would not have been able to kill as many people as he did.

COHEN: Connecticut has been consumed by the gun debate since the Newtown school shootings that left 20 children and six educators dead. Much of that debate has been focused on the tension between gun rights and public safety. But in Connecticut, where an estimated 3,000 people work in firearms manufacturing, there's also another angle - jobs.

Steven Gomez is a 24-year-old shift supervisor at a company called ASC. It stands for Ammunition Storage Components. He and about 80 others make high-capacity magazines. And he's nervous.

STEVEN GOMEZ: This is what I take care of my family with. And I'm pretty sure all my guys do the same thing. So, I mean, it's a big issue for us.

COHEN: Jonathan Scalise owns the company. He says a ban on his product could mean a 40 percent hit to his business. That could mean cutting more than 30 jobs. He's been contacted by states that want him to move his firm - Mississippi, Texas, Kansas, Arizona, South Dakota. He's also gotten less favorable letters from big customers.

JONATHAN SCALISE: What they've told me they'll do is they will not be able to purchase from me, by choice, their choice, because they do not want to basically support Connecticut industry because Connecticut doesn't support them and their rights. And that's it in a nutshell.

COHEN: Governor Malloy says he doesn't want manufacturers like Scalise to leave the state. But in this case, public safety trumps jobs. Still, for Scalise, the whole gun control debate seems misguided.

SCALISE: I have four school-aged children, three of them go to an elementary school that looks a lot like Sandy Hook. And it's about 20, 25 miles from Sandy Hook. So - but for the grace of God, that's my school, OK? What we're doing right now does nothing, does nothing to guarantee that my kids are coming home on that bus every day.

COHEN: But here, three months after Sandy Hook, that's an argument Scalise has apparently lost. The legislature is expected to approve the gun bill tomorrow. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Cohen in Hartford. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director.
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