Connecticut legislators agree on far-reaching gun control

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HARTFORD, Conn. -- More than three months after the massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., legislative leaders announced Monday that they had agreed on what they called the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country.

It would require new state-issued eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition; include what legislators call the nation's first dangerous weapons offender registry; mandate that offenders convicted of any of more than 40 weapons offenses register with the state; institute universal background checks for the sale of all firearms; and substantially expand the state's existing ban on assault weapons.

But even in the wake of the Newtown killings, in which 20 children and six educators died, it did not include everything that anti-gun forces had asked for. It includes a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines with more than 10 bullets. But despite a dramatic plea Monday from relatives of 11 of the victims killed Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook, legislative leaders did not include a ban on ownership of high-capacity magazines, although they agreed on new rules requiring their registration. Legislation passed by New York in January included a ban on ownership of high-capacity magazines.

But the legislation in Connecticut, agreed to after several weeks of negotiations between Democratic and Republican leaders in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, was hailed by gun-control proponents as a landmark package and an appropriate response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said he was disappointed that the ban on possession of high-capacity magazines was not approved, but he said, "When you take all the elements and compare it, I think you could judiciously say this is the strongest bill in the nation."

The bill is expected to go Wednesday to both houses of the General Assembly; passage seemed assured.

In a state still shaken by the tragedy and with a moderate social and political culture, Democratic and Republican leaders hailed the agreement.

"I wake up in morning and put this green ribbon and pin on my jacket lapel to remember those we've lost," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Republican who represents Newtown. "And what I'm proud of is that all of us, Republicans and Democrats, understood that some issues -- and this one particularly -- should rise above politics."

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