The Hartford Courant is reporting that the state Senate Republican Leader in Connecticut is sponsoring a bill to ban ammunition magazines for rifles that contain more than 10 bullets.
In a bipartisan effort, Senator John McKinney (R-Fairfield), whose district includes the town of Newtown, is joining with state Senator Gary LeBeau (D-East Hartford) to co-sponsor the legislation, one of many bills proposed by Connecticut lawmakers in response to the Sandy Hook massacre. McKinney and LeBeau told the Courant that their bipartisan sponsorship of the legislation is an indication of their confidence that the ban on high-capacity magazines will pass the state legislature this year.
Despite the fact that Connecticut is already among the states with the toughest gun control laws, Adam Lanza, the presumed Newtown shooter, reportedly stole his mother’s legally owned guns and used numerous 30-round magazines during his rampage. In light of this, a key state leader last week referred to the legislation co-sponsored by McKinney and LeBeau as “low-hanging fruit.”
As the Courant points out, however, legislative records indicate that the same bill was defeated in 2011 when LeBeau proposed it in the wake of the Arizona shootings that killed six people and severely injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords has met with the families of the Newtown victims and initiated a gun control political action group. The majority of witnesses who testified during a public hearing on the 2011 bill were against it.
In 2011, Bennett C. Prescott, public relations coordinator of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, wrote:
Criminals certainly will not care if they have an illegal capacity magazine for a firearm they also many not legally own. Law abiding citizens of this state are not going to shoot someone once unjustifiably, and certainly not 10 or more times. Furthermore, so-called high capacity magazines will continue to be available in other states or through the Internet at the same price they were.
On Friday, Prescott reiterated his views, adding that massacres aren’t caused by a lack of restrictions on guns.
“The problem is clearly these individuals with severe mental health problems,” he said. “In these cases, there are all kinds of warning signs that this person was unstable and had some kind of problems. The kinds of people who do this are not you and I.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade association for firearms manufacturers based in Newtown, not far from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, submitted testimony in 2011 against LeBeau’s bill to ban high-capacity magazines. The organization, which has hired a lobbyist in preparation for the current legislative session, testified in 2011:
One only needs to look as far back as the 1994 ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban [at the federal level, which is now defunct] to find legislation which did little to increase public safety. One of the sections of this law was halting the production of “high capacity” magazines. This gun control strategy soon proved to be a failure.
NSSF cited a study, that was commissioned by Congress, the results of which indicated, “the banned weapons and magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders.”
Both McKinney and LeBeau, however, believe that, following the Newtown tragedy, their bill will receive an outpouring of support from the public.
“The times and the sensibilities of the public have changed,” McKinney said. “I think today [after Newtown] everybody would know about high-capacity magazines…I think overwhelming support for it, in terms of the general public, will translate into legislative support.”