City | 10:52 pm | April 3, 2013 | By Michelle Hackman

Conn. Senate passes gun-control legislation

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Senate passed one of the nation’s most restrictive gun-control packages in a 26-10 vote Wednesday night.

Three months after the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, following several weeks of intense, bipartisan negotiation, the Senate delivered its legislative response to the shooting with 20 of 22 Democrats and 6 of 14 Republicans voting in favor. The final vote came after nearly six hours of debate, in which every senator stood to speak.

With regard to guns, the bill will tighten the state’s ban on assault-style weapons, ban the sale of ammunition magazines containing more than 10 bullets and mandate background checks for all gun
purchasers, among other provisions. To the dismay of many gun-control advocates, the final bill contained a “grandfather” clause that would allow current gun owners to keep newly banned weapons and magazines as long as they are registered.

The bill also contains several new lines intended to strengthen the state’s mental health care system, particularly for residents between the ages of 16-25 – when people are the most likely to express violence.

“The tragedy in Newtown demands a powerful response,” said President Pro Tempore Don Williams.

During the senators’ speeches, the Senate chamber was unusually hushed, a stark contrast to the atmosphere of heckling that colored the public hearing on this same bill. Before debate began, the presiding officer Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman instructed the Senate gallery – packed with gun-rights supporters – that “there is no booing. There is no cheering.” Largely respectful of her words, gun supporters sat on in surly silence as senator after senator stood to declare their support.

Just 20 minutes after the bill cleared the Senate, the House began its debate. The bill is expected to clear the House later tonight.

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