Municipal leaders propose gun laws

On Jan. 16, one day before President Barack Obama announced a series of federal proposals intended to curb gun violence, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities introduced its own ideas.

The conference’s 13 initiatives, which largely mirror the policy proposals set forth by the president but at a state level, include expanding the definition of assault weapons to match that of California and limiting magazines to no more than 10 bullets. The CCM also recommended requiring background checks to purchase ammunition and more carefully enforcing existing gun laws. These suggestions, which would be passed and signed into law at a state level, came in addition to the support of the conference for a federal ban on assault weapons.

“The CCM membership recognizes that the reduction of gun violence in our country requires a federal-state-local partnership that addresses firearm regulation, mental health and school security issues,” the introduction to the initiatives read.

“Many of the proposals offered by the CCM are very much worth considering,” said Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, who noted that some of the ideas have already been proposed in the legislature. “Many of those ideas will get active consideration in this session.”

Other initiatives proposed by the conference include requiring a rifle permit — rather than a hunting license — for the purchase of a long gun, prohibiting bulk purchases of firearms by establishing a limit of one gun purchase per person every thirty days and requiring trigger locks to be provided with every firearm purchased. The conference also suggested that the state outlaw civilian possession and purchasing of body armor.

The CCM’s proposals, however, have come up against criticism from gun rights groups. Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a statewide pro-gun advocacy group with roughly 2,000 members, said that new laws would not have stopped “what happened in Sandy Hook,” adding that further gun control is “antithetical” to Article 1 Section 15 of the Connecticut Constitution, which reads, “Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state.”

“Legislators should be nurturing our rights, not looking for ways to curtail them,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that he and other members plan to attend several hearings regarding gun violence in Hartford and throughout the state in the coming weeks, where he said they would stress mental health reform and school security as alternatives to tighter gun laws. When asked what specific proposals for mental health and school security the CCDL would support instead of added gun regulation, Wilson responded that he was “not at liberty to say.”

Representatives of the CCM did not respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

Founded in 1966, the CCM is Connecticut’s statewide association of towns and cities, and includes 144 member municipalities representing 90 percent of Connecticut’s population. The CCM’s role is to represent Connecticut municipalities before the state executive and legislative branches, regulatory agencies and courts.

“This is a collaborative effort,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who previously served as the conference’s president, said in a Tuesday email to the News. “I am thankful to the CCM to have this discussion among all the communities of Connecticut.”

DeStefano, who is also a member of the national organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has called for the creation of a Gun Offender Registry as well as stricter licensing requirements.  DeStefano, who called reducing gun violence “New Haven’s number one safety goal,” has spoken with Vice President Joseph Biden, who is leading the Obama Administration’s push for tighter gun regulations, in addition to working with the National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The proposals come shortly before a meeting of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, which was convened by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and will meet for the first time on Thursday. Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said that the commission will seek to address a wide array of issues related to the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed, and general public safety. The 16-member commission hopes to have a set of specific policy proposals by March 15, Doba said.

According to a Slate project on gun violence, 1,142 people have died due to gun violence across the nation since the Sandy Hook massacre.

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