Charles Krupa, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was expected to sign a wide-ranging bill that includes sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, a response to last year's deadly school shooting in Newtown.
Following a total of more than 13 hours of respectful and at times somber debate, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted in favor of the 139-page bill crafted by leaders from both major parties in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
The bill passed 26-10 in the Senate and 105-44 in the House. Both were bipartisan votes.
Malloy's office said he would sign the legislation at noon Thursday during a ceremony at the state Capitol.
"I pray today's bill — the most far-reaching gun safety legislation in the country — will prevent other families from ever experiencing the dreadful loss that the 26 Sandy Hook families have felt," said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, referring to the families of the 20 first graders and six educators killed Dec. 14 inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The December massacre, which reignited a national debate on gun control, set the stage for changes in the state that may have been impossible elsewhere: The governor, who personally informed parents that their children had been killed that day, championed the cause, and legislative leaders, keenly aware of the attention on the state, struck a bipartisan agreement they want to serve as a national model.
The legislation adds more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban and creates what officials have called the nation's first dangerous weapon offender registry as well as eligibility rules for buying ammunition. Some parts of the bill would take effect immediately after Malloy's signature, including background checks for all firearms sales.
Connecticut will join states including California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts in having the country's strongest gun control laws, said Brian Malte, director of mobilization for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington.
"This would put Connecticut right at the top or near the top of the states with the strongest gun laws," Malte said.
Colorado and New York also passed new gun control requirements in the wake of the Newtown shooting, in which a 20-year-old gunman used a military-style semi-automatic rifle.
Compared with Connecticut's legislation, which, for example, bans the sale or purchase of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, New York restricted magazines to seven bullets and gave owners of higher-capacity magazines a year to sell them elsewhere. Colorado banned ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
"There are pieces that are stronger in other states, but, in totality, this will be the strongest gun legislation passed in the United States," Betty Gallo, a lobbyist for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said of the Connecticut bill.
But some lawmakers said they felt the legislation did not do enough to address mental health issues.
Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, a freshman Republican lawmaker from Newtown, acknowledged the legislation "is not perfect" and he hoped would be "a beginning in addressing critical mental health needs."
Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, said he felt the bill "doesn't speak to the issue of gun violence that has permeated our cities," adding how families in his district who've lost children to gun violence have not received the same level of attention from state politicians as the Newtown families.
Many legislators spoke of balancing the rights of gun owners with addressing the horror of the Sandy Hook shooting. They've received thousands of emails and phone calls urging them to vote for or against the bill, with veteran Sen. Joan Hartley, a Democrat, saying she's never seen a more polarizing issue at the state Capitol.
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