One year later, gun bill praised

Connecticut lawmakers are touting comprehensive firearm restrictions passed one year ago as instrumental to a continuing decline in gun violence.

In April 2013, a bill reached Gov. Dannel Malloy’s desk that required, among other provisions, universal background checks for all gun purchases and a thorough registration process for all existing firearms. Malloy quickly signed SB1160 into law. The bill’s final leg — widening the sweep of restrictions to shotguns and rifles — was phased in this month, marking a 12-month push to fight crime by ensuring weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. The Dec. 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School loomed large among the motivations for increased gun control.

“In the wake of one of the worst tragedies to befall our state, we took clear and decisive action to make all residents in every one of our cities and towns safer,” Malloy said in a statement. “The common sense limitations we put in place will make sure that guns are less likely to fall into the hands of someone who shouldn’t have one.”

Malloy said his office has also taken action to further expand school security resources and expand access to mental healthcare in connection with the gun-related legislation. Both areas received increased funding as a result of SB1160.

The law also completely bans the sale or possession of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and requires permits and safety training for those who do get clearance to buy rifles or shotguns. As a result, the state removed 1,747 pistol permits and rejected 210 long-gun purchases due to red flags emerging from customer background checks.

Connecticut politicians praised Malloy’s actions and said they should be mirrored on a national level.

“Where Washington and other states have failed, Connecticut led the way with a bipartisan approach that culminated in the strongest, most comprehensive reforms in the nation,” State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said in a statement.

Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey echoed these sentiments, directly calling upon the U.S. Congress to follow suit in order to reduce the incidence of gun violence across the country.

Statistics revealed in a March 2014 report compiled by Mike Lawlor, Malloy’s criminal justice advisor, show a reduction in Connecticut’s gun violence since 2011. Lawlor said that this drop would not have been nearly as significant without the reforms.

The report aggregates the number of shootings and homicides that took place in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport — the state’s three most violent cities. Both figures have dropped consistently from 2011 to 2013. In 2011, the cities saw 81 homicides and 317 shootings, falling to 61 and 256 in 2012 and 56 and 214 in 2013.

“To me, a common sense approach would be to figure out which states have the lowest firearm homicide rates and figure out what they’re doing,” Lawlor said. “I think the murder rate [in Connecticut] dropped almost overnight because there does seem to be a strong correlation between access to guns and homicide rates.”

Tracey Meares, a professor at the Law School with a research specialty in criminal procedure, said that a ban on assault weapons is not likely to have significant impact on urban shooting and homicide rates, given that such incidents typically involve handguns.

Still, Lawlor said residents are more attuned to threats involving firearms, partially in response to how seriously law enforcement officials are treating the issue.

He pointed to the Dec. 2013 incident at the University of New Haven that resulted in a campus lockdown after several people called police about a suspicious individual walking around with an assault weapon.

“If you look at the facts surrounding that incident, it’s pretty clear that something was about to happen,” Lawlor said. “Someone decided to call the police after seeing something suspicious — it seems like a tragedy was avoided.”

In 2013, New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport accounted for 58.3 percent of the state’s homicides.

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