Lawmakers have full plate as legislature convenes [New London Day]

January 7, 2013

Article as it appeared in the New London Day on 1/7/2013

Guns, mental health, deficit among priorities
Hartford – When the 2013 General Assembly convenes Wednesday, gun violence, spending and growth likely will be weighing on lawmakers’ minds.

“I think it will be a very emotional session, but we will tackle issues that are on the top of the list for so many people,” state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said.

Legislators are expected to propose comprehensive bills to address gun control, mental health and school safety in the wake of the Newtown tragedy while offering up solutions to the state’s projected $1.1 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The governor is scheduled to issue his budget proposal in February and has announced the formation of a Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, which is charged with delivering its recommendations to the General Assembly in March.


State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and state Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, have proposed limiting access to high-capacity weapons, assault weapons and ammunition.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he would propose a bill that prohibits those who cannot legally own firearms from possessing ammunition. Other legislators are proposing bills that would ban large-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons, he said.

Bye and Godfrey also have proposed a 50 percent sales tax on ammunition. Looney said there also might be a proposal for taxing “expensive” guns, similar to a personal property tax on vehicles. The legislature could set up an additional fund for mental health support based on this tax revenue, he said.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Bethel, said she didn’t support adding a bullet tax because if someone wanted to do harm, a tax would not stop them. However, she said, she expects support on both sides of the aisle for continuing an assault weapons ban and for prohibiting high-capacity magazines. Other issues may be whether to grandfather gun ownership when any new law takes effect, and how to deal with guns coming in from out of state, she said.

“We propose that there is some sort of possible buy-back and it could even incorporate the private sector,” Boucher said. “There might even be a way to replace (newly illegal firearms) with something that is legal.”

Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said he wants to look into how to hold corporations responsible when crimes such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings occur.

“I am looking myself to see where we can increase the accountability of corporations, whether it is their board members or officers directly,” Maynard said. “If we are calling corporations persons for the sake of their unlimited political contributions, I think we should look at how much protection they are being afforded.”

Does the responsibility to for-profit corporations and shareholders trump all other responsibilities, he asked.

Laws focusing on ammunition are not enough, he said. The marketing of weapons, which often exploits people’s fears, needs to be evaluated, he said.

“We have retreated in our role and just simply shrugged our shoulders, ‘Well, it is a free market and they should be able to do whatever they want,'” Maynard said. “I am going to ask if we can ask more of them, incentivize them to have more socially conscious behavior or, at the extreme, hold accountable those at the highest levels.”

Read more >> Article as it appeared in the New London Day on 1/7/2013