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Connecticut responds to Newtown with groundbreaking gun control laws

Connecticut's gun-control package includes a dangerous-weapon offender registry and a requirement to obtain 'eligibility' certificates to buy bullets, rifles, and shotguns.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / April 2, 2013

Brady Eggleston of Newtown, Conn., participates in a protest outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown on March 28. Three months after a gunman killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is passing one of the toughest packages gun-control laws in the nation.

Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters

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Less than four months after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Connecticut legislature is expected to enact a new law on Wednesday that will give it one of the toughest gun control laws in the nation.

It incorporates many of the “must haves” of gun control advocates, such as universal background checks to purchase a gun and an expanded ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines. But it also includes some unusual items, such as a first-in-the-nation dangerous-weapon offender registry and the requirement to obtain “eligibility” certificates to obtain bullets, rifles, and shotguns.

“It’s pretty innovative,” says Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. “It shows how the tide is turning.”

The Connecticut law follows one that was passed in New York at the beginning of the year and another package that signed into law last month in Colorado. More gun control laws under consideration in Oregon, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Illinois, Ms. Cutilletta says. California has 40 gun control measures working their way through the legislature.

“There is a real mobilization of the public,” she says. “They are giving the gun lobby a run for their money.”

On Tuesday, a National Rifle Association-funded task force introduced its own School Shield report. Its solution includes training and providing guns to guards in schools.

The NRA task force was led by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) of Arkansas, who said at a press conference that guards should have to go through 40 to 60 hours of training and should be able to carry a variety of weapons ranging from handguns to automatic weapons. Mr. Hutchinson says the recommendations are aimed at small- to medium-sized schools that have never had an issue with security before, similar to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.

Hutchinson was asked at the news conference what he thought about Connecticut’s proposed laws. He responded, “I would be interested in what Connecticut is doing for school safety.” The reporter replied that the new law was their response. Hutchinson replied: “I would say it’s totally inadequate. Because you can address assault weapons and it doesn’t stop someone from bringing in a .45 caliber firearm into the school. It doesn’t stop violence in the schools.”

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