Published January 29. 2013 1:23PM Updated January 29. 2013 2:27PM
Gun use and abuse has become the hottest and most high-profile public issue of our day, and the Connecticut General Assembly is immersed in a legislative debate about gun controls. Public reaction to gun control legislation focuses on ideological differences between those who believe, on the one hand, that our Constitution permits the unlimited and unrestricted use of guns of all types and those people, on the other hand, who fear that guns threaten the lives of their families and their communities. The debate in the legislature should not focus on such ideological differences, but instead on the practical ways in which we can make our families and communities more safe.
The remarkable fact is that in the year 2011 there were 8,583 gun homicides in the United States and only 51 gun homicides in the United Kingdom. That contrast arises from the fact, I am told, that handguns are prohibited in the United Kingdom and rifles are limited to two barrels. The current growing consensus in the General Assembly is to prohibit gun magazines or clips that contain more than 10 rounds (bullets). However, from meeting and training with both local and state police in the last month, I am persuaded that gun magazines can only result in continued gun violence because the gun holder can change from one magazine to another in about one second. It is estimated that the Newtown killer, using a multitude of gun magazines, fired about 200 rounds in four minutes. A leading pro-gun advocate in Connecticut stated that a reduction of high capacity magazines is "misplaced" because "in order to change a magazine, you just push a button, the magazine drops out of the bottom and you immediately slide a new one in. It takes about a second to do it."
Based on the above analysis, I have introduced a controversial bill that would prohibit the purchase, sale, or possession of any gun magazine or clip in Connecticut. Shooters would thereby be limited to one bullet before having to reload. It doesn't take 10 bullets to bring down a deer! My bill makes an exemption for law enforcement and military personnel and gun clubs where the magazines would be registered with the State Police and maintained solely on the club premises under secure conditions.
It is equally important that we make strides in ensuring that Connecticut's mentally ill residents receive the support and services they need to stay safe and healthy. Mental illness does not equate violence, but it can be a factor in some cases, and as a state we need to ensure that our residents receive the resources necessary to avoid this outcome. Constitutionally, we cannot make passage of a psychiatric test a condition of getting a gun permit, and adding mental health services to our schools and our communities will be costly. And so, we are looking for ways to resolve the mental health component of this national problem.