Conn., N.Y. Governors Want Tighter Gun Control

fromWNPR

In the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, come ambitious new efforts aimed at gun violence both in Connecticut and neighboring New York state.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As we've been hearing, following the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, politicians have taken a renewed interest in gun control. The governors of Connecticut and New York have been leading the effort. Jeff Cohen of member station WNPR in Hartford reports on the proposals that are emerging.

JEFF COHEN, BYLINE: In his State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York could be a model for the nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS)

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: End the madness now. Pass safe, reasonable gun control in the state of New York. Let them look at New York and say this is what you can do, and this is what you should do.

COHEN: Cuomo, a Democrat, wants tighter controls on the kinds of rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting. He also wants to get rid of high-capacity ammunition clips, among other things. One state over, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy was uncharacteristically emotional as he addressed his state's legislature. The Democratic governor spoke of school staffers who died and of public safety workers who responded.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GOVERNOR DANNEL MALLOY: Our brave Connecticut state troopers, Newtown's local law enforcement and firemen and others that responded courageously when called upon. I'm sorry.

COHEN: Like Cuomo, Malloy has spoken out against the type of high-capacity magazines used in Newtown. And he supported a federal assault weapons ban in the past. In his speech to the legislature, the governor said more guns in schools are not the answer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MALLOY: Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom. That is not who we are in Connecticut, and it is not who we will allow ourselves to become.

COHEN: Democratic legislators say they want to expand the state's definition of an assault weapon and prohibit the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines. Republican State Representative Arthur O'Neill says those two things will get serious consideration. He's the deputy Republican leader at-large. The goal, he says, should be to pass legislation that's specific.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ARTHUR O'NEILL: What I think should reasonably be coming out of this session are changes to our laws that might reflect on things we could have done to have prevented the Newtown shootings and the massacre at Sandy Hook.

COHEN: Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal has his eye on ammunition. The Democrat says he plans to introduce federal legislation later this month to mandate background checks for people buying ammunition.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Ammunition is really the black hole of current gun violence prevention measures. There are no background checks whatsoever on anyone who buys ammunition.

COHEN: When it comes to the constitutionality of his proposal, Blumenthal says reasonable measures that protect public safety are perfectly consistent with the Second Amendment. Mike Hammond takes a different view. He's legislative counsel to the organization Gun Owners of America. He looks at what's happening in places like Connecticut and New York and says it will all fail.

MIKE HAMMOND: And I think gun owners will, A, by mobilized and, B, succeed in probably killing all gun controls as a result of it.

COHEN: Because he says the only way to keep gun control legislation from overreaching is to stop it before it passes. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Cohen, in Hartford.

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