Legislators are holding an all-day hearing Thursday on 11 different gun bills that cover virtually all of the issues that have been raised since the shootings of 20 children and seven adults in December in Newtown.
Senator Joan Hartley, the co-chair of the legislature’s public safety committee, told representatives of the National Rifle Association that the committee members did not simply want to know which bills they are against.
“Give us what you are for,’’ Hartley said in wrapping up her remarks. “With that, I bid you safe travel.’’
Ron Pinciaro, the executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said that his group has grown by 35,000 members since the Newtown massacre on December 14. They support raising the minimum age to 21 to buy a shotgun, among others.
“I think the rest of the country is looking at Connecticut,’’ Pinciaro told lawmakers during Thursday’s hearing. “Now is the time. Don’t let us down.’’
Concerning the multi-pronged issues revolving around violence and guns, Pinciaro said, “In so many of these cases, there is a mental health issue. In every case, there is a gun. … We do not mean to have any implication that we are not in full support of mental health’’ improvements.
State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, a Fairfield Republican, responded, “My fear is the mental health piece will slide off to the side and Connecticut will not do anything significant.”
In a back-and-forth with Pinciaro, state Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton wondered what would happen to 30-round magazines that are currently in circulation if the legislature decides to ban those magazines.
“I would consider it confiscation by the government’’ to collect magazines with more than 10 rounds, Witkos said. “I personally believe it’s unconstitutional.’’
“We feel confident that does pass constitutional muster,’’ Pinciaro said. “This is not government taking for government use. … It’s been done before. Probably the most classic example of it was when the Prohibition laws were put into effect. People owned a lot of alcohol at the time.’’
Rep. Steven Mikutel, a conservative Democrat, then focused on Senate Bill 1976, which covers multiple gun-control issues that include expanding the definition of assault weapons.
“Do you think that bill addresses the root causes of violence in our society?’’ Mikutel asked Pinciaro.
Pinciaro responded that about 80 percent of the gun crimes in the major cities in Connecticut are committed by unlicensed shooters who cannot legally purchase guns.
“We know in Connecticut that 60 percent’’ of the guns in crimes were purchased in Connecticut, he said. “Only 9.6 percent of those guns come from down South. Is it straw buyers? Is it rogue dealers? … We don’t have that framework now. I don’t think it infringes on the Second Amendment rights, which I fully support, of gun owners.’’
Regarding the steps that need to be taken, Pinciaro said, “We need to start with the very most lethal weapons, which were intended for military and police use.”