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2013 In Review: Connecticut Enacts Historic Gun Control Laws

In April, Gov. Dannel Malloy signs into law a comprehensive legislative package on gun violence, mental health and school safety reforms. He was joined by family members of victims, anti-violence advocates and state officials.
In April, Gov. Dannel Malloy signs into law a comprehensive legislative package on gun violence, mental health and school safety reforms. He was joined by family members of victims, anti-violence advocates and state officials. Photo Credit: File

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- In the aftermath of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Connecticut approved some of the strictest gun laws in the nation in 2013, banning dozens of rifles and pistols that were once legal in Fairfield County and across the state.

The efforts to tighten gun laws began at the start of the legislative session last winter, with Gov. Dannel Malloy calling for reform in his State of the State address in February.

Kara Nelson Baekey, a Norwalk mother of two, launched a Fairfield County chapter of One Million Moms For Gun Control to fight for the cause . On Valentine's Day, hundreds of residents, many of them mothers and members of that group, joined a rally at the State Capitol in Hartford to call for changes in the state's gun laws.

Connecticut and Fairfield County remained a rallying point on the issue, with Vice President Joe Biden appearing as the keynote speaker at a gun violence conference at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury later that month.

"We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago, 12 miles from here," Biden told the crowd, which included Malloy, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

After weeks of debate, the Connecticut House and Senate approved a bill on April 4 to make the state's gun laws the strictest in the nation:

“What happened at Sandy Hook was a horror. Yet sadly this kind of mass shooting is not unprecedented. A common thread through many of these tragedies has been the prevalence of assault weapons, designed for use in war," state Sen. Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) said in a statement. "I hope that our bipartisan approach on this bill sends a message to the rest of the country that in the face of tragedy, when it really counts, reasonable people of different opinions can find a common sense way forward.”

That afternoon, Malloy signed the newly passed bill into law.

As soon as Malloy signed the legislation, a long list of firearms immediately became illegal. Large capacity ammunition clips that hold more than 10 bullets were also immediately banned, making them now illegal to sell or purchase.

“We can never undo the senseless tragedy that took place on Dec. 14 or those tragedies that play themselves out on a daily basis in our cities, but we can take action here in Connecticut and make our towns and cities safer, and this bill does that,” Malloy said at the bill-signing ceremony in Hartford. “Through our efforts today, we honor those we lost and those we have worked to help to mend in the grieving process.”

Residents who already own large-capacity magazine clips or firearms now considered assault weapons will not be required to relinquish these items. Instead, they will be required to register these items with the state by Jan. 1. The state reminded residents near the end of December to complete this paperwork.

This registry, to be maintained by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, will include people who have been convicted of an offense committed with a deadly weapon or those found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in such cases.

The law also requires universal background checks on buyers for all firearm purchases.

As of July 1, certificates of eligibility were required to buy ammunition. To receive a certificate, residents must pass a federal background check. Certificates are also required to purchase shotguns and rifles.

The law also broadens the mental health provisions that disqualify a person for a gun permit or handgun eligibility certificate.

Congress failed in repeated attempts to tighten federal laws on gun ownership. But on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings earlier this month, U.S. Rep.. Jim Himes (D-4th District) reaffirmed his commitment to passing strict federal gun laws.

“My heart remains broken for the 20 children and six adults whose lives were tragically cut short one year ago. In the year since Newtown, an additional 30,000 Americans have lost their lives to guns," Himes said in a statement. "Though there is no peace for the families of those we have lost, I remain committed to improving our gun laws and our mental health system to reduce the violence and mayhem.

"We must do everything in our power to prevent the next Newtown, Aurora, or Columbine from happening and to stop the epidemic of violence in some of our cities. While I am frustrated and disappointed by Congress’ failure to lead on this issue, I am no less resolved.”