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Malloy will sign tough gun bill into law

Updated 12:10 am, Wednesday, April 3, 2013
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Check out ctpost.com Wednesday for all-day coverage of the historic Connecticut gun law vote and join the conversation. Tell us what you think of the proposed law.
Our reporting at the Capitol will start early, with stories, blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts about the crowds, the lawmakers, the issues and more.
We'll be on the scene as the Senate and House vote, and we'll immediately tell you how your legislators cast their ballots. You can watch live streaming video on ctpost.com, and join the conversation yourself. Tell us, and our readers, how you feel about the legislation and this watershed moment in Connecticut history.
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HARTFORD -- Opponents and supporters of the nation's toughest gun laws plan to jam the Capitol on Wednesday to celebrate -- or protest -- the state's historic response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday he will sign the gun-control bill into law once it is passed by the Legislature, immediately prohibiting sales of about 100 additional models of military-style rifles that will join Connecticut's 20-year-old list of banned assault weapons.

"I think these weapons are inherently more dangerous than others," Malloy said. "When they are abused, they are more dangerous than others."

Around the state Tuesday, gun enthusiasts stocked up on weaponry and large-capacity ammunition magazines that would be restricted under the new law.

Gun advocates conceded enough support for the bill exists in the Senate and House, but they are mustering a large presence for Wednesday just the same, with shuttle buses set to run from the Cabela's sporting goods outlet in nearby East Hartford.

Supporters of the bill also expect to make a physical showing in the Capitol on the day Connecticut is poised to set the national standard for gun control.

The bill is scheduled to arrive in the Senate at around 11 a.m., then head to the House.

In addition, President Barack Obama plans to visit the state Monday, presumably after Malloy signs the sweeping legislation into law.

Gun owners would have until Jan. 1 to register ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, or risk penalties that could include a year in prison and disqualification from future gun ownership.

Sandy Hook Promise, one of the activist groups that organized after the December massacre, said in a statement Tuesday that registering existing magazines and limiting the size of new ones to 10 bullets would strengthen the overall bill.

"This is something that we can be proud of," Malloy said at a news conference. "I think that this is a vast improvement over prior law."

Malloy joined Sandy Hook families in pushing for an outright ban on the possession of large-capacity magazines. "We don't want to stop progress. This bill is a very good bill; very far-reaching; arguably the most comprehensive in the country on a state basis, in its entirety."

Bipartisan negotiations among leaders of the House and Senate yielded a package Monday that did not include an outright ban on large-capacity magazines, because of the controversy around taking away the lawful property of gun owners.

Instead, in addition to registering the number of magazines with more than 10 bullets, those retaining possession of them would not be allowed to put more than 10 bullets in them. That could make lawful gun owners wonder why they need them.

"We'll get up to speed as quickly as we can," Malloy said. "We will strictly enforce this law. We will come up with appropriate regulations to enforce this law, but I think it's important that it goes into effect as soon as possible."

Malloy said he plans to send another letter to state gun manufacturers stressing that they are welcome to stay in Connecticut, if they want to.

"Having said that, there are other things that need to be taken into consideration and the public's safety is one of those things," he said.

Malloy said he spoke with White House officials Monday about the visit next week, but deferred details to the president's office. Obama was last in Connecticut on Dec. 16, meeting the families of 26 slain first-graders and educators in the Newtown school and speaking to hundreds at the town's high school.

Robert Crook, who heads the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, which unsuccessfully challenged the state's 1993 ban on assault weapons, said Tuesday that lawful gun owners are paying the price for the lawlessness that led to the school massacre.

"They're appalled by the lack of knowledge the legislators have on the gun laws," Crook said. "Secondly, they're really irate that there's no public hearing to address the bill, if and when we ever see the bill."

Leaders of the General Assembly held several public hearings on major aspects of the legislation, including a rare evening hearing in Newtown, where many spoke in favor of tougher gun-control regulations, universal background checks and limitations on the size of ammunition magazines.

Crook said that public safety will not be improved and that the exact language of the bill is being kept away from the public.

"Certainly, we're not going after criminals, so it's the gun owners that are being penalized for this," he said. "Some of the stuff in here just doesn't make any sense."

He said that under the bill, young men coming back from military service could be too young to buy a hunting rifle.

Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza first killed his mother in her bed, then took two handguns, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Bushmaster XM15 rifle, to Sandy Hook Elementary School. He used the rifle to shoot the 26 students and educators before killing himself with a handgun with the last of 154 shots.

"If Mrs. Lanza had not been able to purchase guns, the likes of which she purchased, Mr. Lanza, Adam, would not have been able to kill as many people as he did," Malloy said.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, a former state senator, said Tuesday he is proud of the Legislature.

"We must do everything we can to protect our residents, especially our children; I believe that these new measures will go a long way in helping to curb the gun violence we see in our cities and preventing tragedies like we saw in Sandy Hook from ever happening again," Finch said in a statement. "Now, I hope that leadership in Washington can follow Connecticut's lead."

kdixon@ctpost.com; 860-549-4670; twitter.com/KenDixonCT; facebook.com/kendixonct.hearst; blog.ctnews.com/dixon