All eyes are on Connecticut as the state General Assembly’s 50-member bipartisan task force on gun violence prevention and children’s safety makes progress on its legislative recommendations.
Since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, thousands of advocates for gun control and gun rights have gathered for marches, legislative hearings and speeches by politicians.
Roughly 5,500 advocates for stricter gun-control legislation gathered in Hartford to mark the two-month anniversary of the shooting, while the group Connecticut Against Gun Violence (CAGV) has continued to keep pressure on legislators with a Feb. 19 announcement that more than 300 clergy and 45 religious groups support their legislative agenda.
“The NRA thinks the Newtown effect will go away,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told thousands at the Feb. 14 March for Change rally. “Every day that we delay making common sense changes on a national basis is a day in which more innocent individuals will die because we failed to act. What’s going to happen in this nation is Newtown will have forever changed it.”
Gun-control advocates in Hartford and Washington are pushing for a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as universal background checks.
Yet while they remain very visible, General Assembly members say the number of letters in favor of Second Amendment rights outweigh those in favor of stricter laws 100 to 1.
Additionally, Connecticut is home to some of the largest gun manufacturers in the country. In 2011, industry representatives said they contributed $1.3 billion annually to the state’s economy.
Colt’s Manufacturing Co. L.L.C., O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc. and Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. all call Connecticut home, as does the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents 8,000 firearm-related businesses, including every major gun manufacturer.
Testifying before a gun task force committee Feb. 4, NSSF Senior Vice President Lawrence Keane outlined the organization’s commitment to gun violence prevention and responses to proposed legislation.
He said the organization opposes limits on magazines, suggesting that crime statistics would remain unchanged and that limiting the capacity would only lead to gun owners carrying more ammunition.
“It only takes a split second to change,” Keane said.
For the NSSF, the central issue at hand is preventing unauthorized use. Keane said the group supports improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) rather than the establishment of universal background checks.
Keane said gunmakers support the inclusion of mental health records and other information within the NICS database and a requirement that all states contribute to the system, while about half of states do now.
He also suggested the government provide tax credits for gun locks and safe purchases, which can be expensive when purchased on their own.
Asked whether the manufacturers would “up and leave” if gun control legislation was passed, Keane said he couldn’t answer for any one company, but that there were concerns.
“There is a company here that manufactures magazines and they are concerned about the effect that would have on their business,” Keane said. “We do know that one large magazine manufacturer has left already since the state took this issue up two years ago, as I understand it.”