HARTFORD -- Connecticut's new gun control legislation is now law.
At about 12:20 p.m. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill approved by both the House and Senate during marathon sessions.
"This is a profoundly emotional day for everyone in this room," Malloy said. "We have come together in a way that few places in the nation have demonstrated the ability to do."
Several family members of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings where in attendance as Malloy, using several pens, signed the bill into law in the state Capitol's Old Judiciary Room.
Malloy signed the bill hours after the General Assembly approved the measure to give the state some of the toughest gun laws in the country.
After six hours in the Senate and another seven-plus hours in the House, a bipartisan General Assembly coalition early Thursday finally approved historic gun-control legislation in Connecticut.
The bill, a product of weeks of hearings and four weeks of private negotiations among House and Senate leaders, was approved 26-10 in the Senate and 105-44 in the House.
The House debate began at 7 p.m. Wednesday and didn't end until the unprecedented vote was recorded at about 2:25 a.m. Thursday.
Sources said that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will hold a bill-signing ceremony Thursday at noon in the Old Judiciary Room at the Capitol.
The long-awaited debate started at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday with a recollection from Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr. of the quiet Friday in December that was shattered by the Newtown massacre.
"That was 110 days ago," he said. "As we take action today, as stunned as we are at the events of Newtown, let's also acknowledge it's not the first time in the recent history of the United States that we confronted gun violence."
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, whose district includes Newtown, recalled the scene at the school and the parents of the 20 murdered children and the families of the six dead educators, whose names he recited.
"We are all elected to come to our government to see what we can do to make Connecticut better," McKinney said. "But everyone should try to work together to see if we can find common ground. Keeping people safe, protecting our citizens, is a core function of what we do. People are very fearful of what they believe is in this bill."
McKinney said he hopes Connecticut's bipartisan bill can show Congress what should be done.
"We've had 64 hours of public hearings," he noted.
The floor debate started Wednesday on what proved to be the last full day state residents could purchase military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Hundred of boisterous, sometimes intimidating gun advocates, filled the Capitol starting around 8:45 a.m.
"Just say no," dozens shouted for well over five minutes outside the Senate chamber shortly after the scheduled 11 a.m. time for debating the 139-page bill.
The objects of their discord were Williams, D-Brooklyn, and Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, who walked through a gauntlet of opponents to their third-floor caucus room.
When the debate actually started, front-row spectators in the gallery over the Senate held "No" signs.
But as the debate proceeded through the afternoon and its passage became plainer, many gun enthusiasts, who seemingly filled the Capitol halls in the morning, drifted away and the green-clad supporters of Sandy Hook School and tougher gun control became more apparent.
Seven Republican amendments, including three by Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, that would have loosened restrictions on the possession of ammunition, were rejected.
Frantz ended up voting for the legislation along with McKinney, Sen. Antoinetta Boucher, R-Wilton, and three other Republicans, including Sen. Michael McLachlan of Danbury and Sen. Kevin Kelly of Stratford.
"I still believe we have some very deep questions on the economic impact of the legislation," said Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, whose district includes Oxford and part of Seymour, and who proposed two more amendments that also failed.
In the House debate, Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, co-chairman of a subcommittee on mental health issues, said the bill made major initial steps toward treating and identifying potentially dangerous, disturbed people such as Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook School shooter.
Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, co-chairman of the legislative Sportsmen's Coalition, offered the first House bill, which was rejected at about 10:15 p.m. in a resounding 104-45 vote.
"We are going to change people's lives when this becomes law," Miner said.
As soon as the bill is signed into law by the governor, the legislation will immediately ban the sale of more than 100 makes of military-style rifles in an expansion of the state's 1993 prohibition on assault weapons. It will also ban the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and require criminal background checks for every gun purchase, including private rifle sales that are currently exempt.
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, called it a comprehensive package.
"I'm very proud of the fact that Connecticut has been able to do this in a bipartisan manner," he said in an interview. "But that also means we're going to have the strongest gun-control laws in the country, along with very strong mental health laws and school-security measures."
Boucher, who headed a legislative subcommittee on school safety, said that state officials would have until early next year to develop statewide strategies for building modifications.
"When a parent sends their child to school, they expect them to be safe," Boucher said.
The bill also includes a provision to create school-based, threat-assessment teams that will try to identify troubled youths who might be prone to violence.
Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, said before the Senate debate that there was a lot of misinformation on the issue, particularly the new definition of assault-style weapons that includes the nearly ubiquitous pistol grip.
"Let me tell you about the ignorance of the governor and the ignorance of the Legislature," Crook said outside the Senate. "Every gun except for guns made years and years ago, or replicas, has a pistol grip. It ain't the same kind of pistol grip that you have on an AR-15, but that curvature in the stock is called a pistol grip. So every gun has a pistol grip.
"Rather than five minutes to shoot 154 rounds, maybe it would have taken (Lanza) five minutes, 20 seconds. Is there a difference? I don't know. I'm sure they'll be a legal challenge. It isn't the type of firearm. It's politics."
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