(The Center Square) — Connecticut lawmakers are advancing a wide-ranging package of gun control measures billed as the most significant changes since the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre.
The Democratic-led proposal, approved by the state House of Representatives Thursday on a largely party-line vote of 96-51, calls for prohibiting the open carry of firearms and further tightening the state’s existing restrictions on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
It would also regulate the sale of body armor to civilians, limit handgun purchases to three per month, and raise the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21, among other provisions.
Gov. Ned Lamont praised the House for approving the legislation, which he said was crafted with input from the public and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle.
“We need to do everything we can to keep our communities safe and prevent those who intend on doing harm from accessing these deadly weapons,” Lamont said.
Lamont said the bill’s key provisions are “supported by the overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents – including many gun owners – because they want to live in a community that has common sense measures that encourage gun safety and prevent harm from impacting our neighborhoods and homes.”
House Democrats who filed the proposal — An Act Addressing Gun Violence — billed it as the most comprehensive overhaul of gun safety laws in a decade, argued the changes were needed to prevent mass shootings like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, when a lone gunman killed 20 children and six educators.
“This legislation will reduce gun violence, help stop mass shootings, and prevent firearm accidents and suicides,” said Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, who negotiated the final bill.
Republican lawmakers largely voted against the gun control package, arguing it would violate Second Amendment rights and do little to prevent mass shootings.
“This bill does not address gun violence,” state Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said in remarks ahead of the bill’s passage. “This bill should be called an act attacking law-abiding citizens’ right to possess firearms.”
Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, also voted against the legislation after decrying what he viewed as a “seemingly perpetual cycle of blaming the law abiding while ignoring the law breaker” in the state’s gun safety proposals.
“Ninety percent of this legislation impacts legal gun owners and does nothing to reduce the gun violence it was purported to address,” he said in remarks.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action urges lawmakers to reject the plan, saying it would severely restrict law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen. The group singled out the bill’s “handgun rationing” provision.
“Obviously this will ONLY impact law-abiding gun owners, as criminals don’t line up at gun stores to submit to gun rationing schemes,” the NRA-ILA said in a blog post.
If it passes, the new legislation will likely draw legal challenges from Second Amendment groups.
Connecticut is still embroiled in a legal challenge over its 1994 “assault weapons” ban, seeking to overturn a prohibition on what they call “modern sporting arms,” such as AR-15 long rifles.
The lawsuits were filed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a firearm permit.
The bill now moves to the Democratic-controlled state Senate, where it is expected to pass before heading back to Lamont’s desk for consideration.