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Reforms should include handgun controls

Published March 08. 2013 4:00AM

A woman, who lost her 19-year-old son to gun violence in New Haven last year, asked a disturbing question at the Connecticut Capitol the other day: Where do the killers get their guns?

"How could these little kids just be running around with these guns? They must be coming from somewhere," said Kim Morrell, whose son's murder remains unsolved.

The answer is more disturbing. We don't know.

We do know that most of the gun deaths in Connecticut take place in just three cities, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport and the weapon almost exclusively used is not an AR-15 like the one used in Newtown, but a handgun.

While the state and nation have been focused on ways to help prevent another Newtown, we needed to be reminded that attention must also be paid to the deadliest firearm.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, which organized the Capitol meeting with members of the General Assembly's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, told CT News Junkie that most urban crimes are committed by people prohibited from owning guns, but we don't have laws that would help us determine how they got them.

Admittedly, tracking guns back to original owners, often after they are bought by so-called straw purchasers, intent on quickly unloading them to anyone with the cash, is difficult.

That's why it would make sense to pass a law requiring that all handguns be registered with the State Police on an annual basis and that individual gun purchases be limited to one a month. Mr. Pinciaro said these changes would make it difficult for gun sellers to get bulk discounts and sell guns privately and anonymously. It would also expose volume purchasers who quickly resell their guns to suspect buyers.

Not surprisingly, veteran lobbyist Robert Crook of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, disagreed, saying limiting gun sales has not succeeded in other states and doing so, "only impacts the legitimate citizen."

We don't understand why "the legitimate citizen" would consider it a hardship or even an inconvenience to be limited to the purchase of a gun every month. This reminds us of the frequent gun lobby complaint that registering a gun makes the owner a criminal even though registering a car is just fine.

But Mr. Crook has a point when he calls for better enforcement of existing laws. The most recent reports from the Office of Legislative Research on gun laws indicate that as recently as 2007 most gun charges were nolled or not prosecuted by the courts. And in a three-year period ending in 2007, about half of the 1,800 people arrested for not carrying a gun permit were not prosecuted.

New Haven Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and a Democratic candidate for mayor of New Haven, said his caucus will add handgun legislation to the governor's recommendations.

"If we get rid of AR-15s and we limit magazines and kids are still able to easily get a hold of a gun, then I think we failed," Mr. Holder-Winfield said.

We agree.

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