Legislature shaping response to Newtown shooting

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In the wake of the Newtown shooting, State Sen. Joseph Markley (R-16) said he believes a ban on high-capacity magazines and a high tax on ammunition are likely to be approved in the upcoming legislative session.

From 1994 to 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited ownership of firearms that were classified as assault weapons and could hold 10 or more rounds, unless they were purchased before the ban went into effect.

Despite the creation of several bills during past legislative sessions, the national ban has not been renewed. Although Connecticut currently has a limited ban on assault weapons, Markley said he believes banning assault weapons is not an effective way to curb violent crime.

“The trouble with an assault weapon ban is that all guns are assault weapons,” Markley said. “If one type of gun is banned, another gun will do.”

Markley said a high tax on ammunition that would substantially raise the current 11 percent tax rate on bullets may become a reality. One call for a proposal by Sen. Beth Bye (D-5) and Rep. Bob Godfrey (D-110) includes a 50 percent tax rate on bullets that are not bought and used at a firing range.

“The high tax on ammunition has made the most progress before and has the most momentum behind it,” Markley said.

While the legislative body will be working in the upcoming session that begins Jan. 9 to create ways to make schools and the general public safer, Markley said the route to a non-violent atmosphere is not as simple as writing bills and creating new laws.

“The trouble is, I don’t think there is an easy solution,” Markley said. “Society created it. Life has changed more dramatically even in my lifetime. …We have social problems that are technology-driven. We have a need for solitude, quiet, prolonged attention. Our roots to nature have almost disappeared.”

Markley said he believes a growing lack of face-to-face human interaction may be one of the reasons violent crimes are committed.

“Part of the change has been alienation … communicating remotely makes human beings a little less real,” Markley said.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17) said that, although Connecticut has ranked fifth in the country in gun control and gun safety by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, he is in favor of “tightening up” gun laws to ensure greater safety.

“It’s just so incomprehensible … I can’t comprehend why someone would do something like that,” Crisco said of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. “Little kids, God. Just starting life.”

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) said she is in the process of speaking with teachers, parents and police officers to better understand how to address the issue of violent crime.

“I’ve asked many parents: ‘How would you feel with officers in schools or if teachers were trained in handling firearms?’” she said.

In Utah, 200 teachers were trained to handle firearms and carry concealed weapons for free in response to the Newtown shooting. An Ohio gun group also plans to offer a test program of firearm training for teachers.

Rebimbas said that because police are still investigating the Newtown shooting, it is too early to determine exactly what steps Connecticut legislature should take to deter violent acts.

“We have to be careful and responsible,” Rebimbas said. “I don’t want to pass bad laws that don’t address the issue.”

Rebimbas said she has found out that not all Connecticut schools are having lockdown drills and that it is important for schools to focus on emergency preparedness. Enforcing current gun and safety laws is also a priority, she said.

“And then there is the issue of funding,” Rebimbas said. “But no cost is greater than losing a child’s life.”