In 2011, following the shootings in Arizona that killed six people and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Connecticut legislature considered a bill that would have banned large-capacity magazine clips.
The measure was vigorously fought by the gun lobby and failed to win approval. Here’s the piece I wrote on the March 24, 2011 public hearing on the bill:
Dozens of gun owners, firearms manufacturers and people who shoot for sport came to the Legislative Office Building Wednesday to criticize a bill that would make it illegal to own large-capacity ammunition clips – those capable of holding 10 rounds or more.
Several people at a lengthy public hearing before the judiciary committee went on record in favor of the ban, including the mayors of the state’s three largest cities, but critics vastly outnumbered supporters.
Opponents said the measure is legislative overreaction to the Jan. 8 shootings in Arizona that killed six and critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Police said the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, used a 33-round magazine.
“This bill is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to a terrible incident in Tucson, Ariz.,” said Leonard Benedetto, vice president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, which has more than 1,300 members. “I am a law-abiding gun owner with no criminal record, yet this bill is trying to turn me into a criminal.”
A handful of states limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds, but the Connecticut bill would go further. It would ban the future sale of large-capacity clips and require anyone in possession of one or more to turn them over to local or state police within 90 days of the law’s taking effect. Failure to do so could result in a serious felony charge.
Several gun owners said such a provision would constitute an illegal taking of their property and would likely be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.
Robert Crook, director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, said the bill would have no impact on criminals yet “it makes instant felons of law-abiding citizens with a stroke of a pen.”
Defenders of the bill said they are looking after the safety of the public at large.
”Large-capacity ammunition magazines are designed to enable shooting mass numbers of people quickly and efficiently without reloading,” Mayors Bill Finch of Bridgeport, John DeStefano of New Haven and Pedro Segarra of Hartford said in a joint letter to the committee. “We have a responsibility to protect our citizens and to ensure that another Tucson, Arizona incident never happens again.”
The state’s firearms manufacturers said the bill would create a hardship for their industry. Gun makers have a long history in Connecticut and contribute nearly $1.3 billion to the state’s economy, according to Jake McGuigan, an official with the National Sports Shooting Association, a trade association for the firearms, ammunition and recreation sports shooting industries.
“Many manufacturers have been courted by firearm-friendly states and offered tax incentives to relocate,” McGuigan said.
The companies have chosen to remain in Connecticut but that could change if onerous regulations are placed on them, he said, adding, “What will legislators say when Colt Firearms and over 1,000 good-paying union jobs decides to pack up and leave the state?”
The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association expressed tepid support for the measure, saying most handgun owners should be able to make do with 10 rounds.
The bill “will take a baby step in protecting the safety of the public in particular cases where somebody’s shooting a lot of rounds,” West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci said. “It’s a small step; it may be symbolic largely but it may actually help to save some lives.”
The bill is one of several firearms regulations under consideration by lawmakers this session. Another proposal would create a gun-offender registry modeled on the sex-offender registry. Also proposed this year is a bill that would clarify people’s right to use deadly force to protect themselves in their homes.