Legislative Leaders Say Bipartisan Agreement Could Yield Nation's Strongest Gun-Control Bill

Demonstrators representing both sides of the gun control debate at separate gatherings in March. (CLOE POISSON/STEPHEN DUNN)

"We're not totally satisfied with everything," Director Ron Pinciaro said, "but … I think we're in the land of political reality right now … and we're not going to push anybody to push an amendment" for the vote that the Newtown parents requested on the magazine ban. "It's not a perfect day for us but it's a very good day."

The firearms industry expressed dissatisfaction Monday night with the proposal. "It's unfortunate that legislators are moving forward with gun control that's not going to make Connecticut safer," said Jake McGuigan, director of government relations for the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation.

"I think Cabela's really has to think about whether they can remain in the state as a destination," McGuigan said of the sporting goods megastore in East Hartford. "Based upon this bill, even the ability to sell ammunition is going to be pretty difficult for them. The manufacturers have no reason to stay in Connecticut anymore."

Tighter Rules

Aside from expanding the assault weapons ban and restricting the high-capacity magazines, the bill also would:

•Create what lawmakers believe would be the first statewide dangerous weapon offender registry in the country. People convicted of any of 40 or more specific crimes, most of them involving shootings, would have to put their names on the registry and keep their address current for five years after their release from prison. The registry would be accessible only by law enforcement officials.

•Require a certificate of eligibility or gun permit to be presented by any person buying ammunition. A certificate of eligibility could only be obtained by undergoing a national criminal background check, the same as required for a pistol permit.

•Impose tighter gun-registration procedures and universal background checks for purchasers of all firearms, whether the purchase is from a retail store or between individuals. This would cover purchases at gun shows. Background checks would be required for purchases of long rifles and shotguns.

•Increase penalties for many firearms-trafficking and illegal-possession offenses.

•Increase the "look-back" period for restricting gun possession by persons involuntarily confined or admitted to a hospital for mental illness. Currently, such people cannot possess a firearm or obtain a permit for a year after their release. The bill expands that period to five years.

•Raises the age requirement for purchase of semiautomatic rifles not clarified as assault weapons under the bill to 21, from the current 18.

•Clarify the state's risk reduction credit program, stating that violent criminals who commit crimes with guns must serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentences. Some lawmakers said that this translates into the end of the state's highly controversial early release program, but Malloy administration official Michael P. Lawlor said it is simply a clarification of existing law. Republicans have harshly criticized the early release program, and its inclusion in the gun bill reflects a compromise.

Capitol Bureau Chief Christopher Keating contributed to this story.