Toughest U.S. gun laws yet: Hurray for Connecticut!

On Thursday 4 April 2013 the Legislature of the U.S. State of Connecticut voted to approve what leaders of both Democrat and Republican parties call the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a landslide.

ConnecticutA bipartisan task force spurred by the 14 December 2012 Newtown shooting spree that left 20 schoolchildren and six adult staff members dead drew up the bill. Gunman Adam Lanza, first killed his mother at her home and took his own life at Sandy Hook Elementary School after the rampage.

The new bill prohibits the sale of any firearm until the buyer passes a national criminal background check. In addition, private sales of rifles and shotguns will be regulated; the list of banned assault weapons will be expanded from 66 to more than 150; and the sale, purchase, transfer or importing of large-capacity magazines (more than 10 bullets) will be banned.

Because of intense pressure from those short-sighted people who make up the gun lobby, lawmakers refused to add a ban on current possession of large-capacity magazines. They also failed to include a provision requiring the annual registration of handguns, including proof that a gun is still with the original owner.

The advocacy group Connecticut Against Gun Violence says that most of the state’s gun murders occur in the cities of Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. Most are committed with handguns no longer in the possession of their original owners. But lawmakers chose not to fight against the gun lobby’s spurious claim that registration leads to confiscation. Who are these obstructionists? This from an editorial in The New York Times (4 April 2013):

“The gun lobby is a combination of forces that includes manufacturers, hunters and hobbyists, political opportunists, and a fanatically active faction that believes guns are needed to fight off the conquest of freedom by the government. That faction is represented by the group Gun Owners of America, which has spent the months since Newtown doing tremendous damage, insisting that expanded background checks will lead to a gun registry that will assist a secret plan by the president to seize every firearm…”

…This is the group that said the blood of Newtown was on the hands of lawmakers who create gun-free zones around schools. Its executive director, Larry Pratt, considers the United States government to be largely unconstitutional, and says that gun rights come directly from God. ‘When we’re talking about firearms,’ he said in 2010, ‘we’re not really talking about a right but an obligation, as creatures of God, to protect the life that was given them.’”

The new law in Connecticut, in addition to creating a state-wide dangerous weapon offenders’ registry, requires “universal background checks” for the sale of all firearms immediately, upon passage. It also significantly increases penalties for many firearms trafficking and illegal possession offenses as well as changing the status (with regard to firearms possession) of individuals who have been either involuntarily confined in or voluntarily admitted to a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities.

The bill establishes the offense of illegal possession of ammunition, so that someone who is ineligible to possess a firearm will now be ineligible to possess ammunition. It requires applicants for a temporary permit to carry a pistol or revolver to apply only in their town of residence (as opposed to also where they work), and further limits such applications to one per twelve months. It bans the sale of armour piercing ammunition and makes it a felony to carry a firearm loaded with such ammunition.

Mark-TwainIn contrast to the wisdom of Connecticut in contesting the notion that guns are OK, during the past two years three U.S. states have named firearms as their state symbols. In March 2011, Utah adopted the M1911 pistol, a gun was designed by Utah native John Browning. In April 2011, Arizona designated the Colt Single Action Army Revolver as its state firearm. And in March 2012, Indiana adopted the Grouseland rifle. Kept at Grouseland, the home of President William Henry Harrison, it was made between 1803 and 1812 by John Small, who later became the first sheriff in the state.

Mark Twain (photo right), who lived in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1874 to 1891, once wrote, “I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolute” (quoted in the New York Tribune, 15 April 1906).

Indubitably, in this case Twain would have been on the side of revolutionary commonsense.

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