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Gun bills earn approval in state House

By Johanna Somers

Publication: theday.com

Published 03/19/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 03/20/2013 04:38 PM
Legislation would require permits for sales, shows, and lower maximum blood alcohol level for firearms users

Hartford — The Public Safety and Security Committee passed some of the first post-Sandy Hook gun control and safety bills on Tuesday. The bills will be sent to the Senate floor for further deliberation.

"I know there are other processes in place, one from the governor and one from the respective leaders, and we as Democrats and Republican leaders of this committee thought that it was important that we have a process through the committee process," said committee co-chairman, state Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, on Tuesday.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of bills that require background checks for private sales, require permits for gun shows and lower the legal blood alcohol level for people using firearms. Also Tuesday, the committee passed a bill that aims to increase communication among police departments.

The committee held a 16½-hour public hearing last week, Dargan said. The governor's commission did not have a public hearing, and the legislature's Gun Violence Prevention Working Group only held a hearing on concepts, not actual bills, he said.

"Some people might say we didn't go far enough, but I think we did do something today by going forward in a bipartisan manner," Dargan said.

Many of the stronger gun control bills discussed at that public hearing last week were not voted on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 506 requires criminal background checks for all private firearm sales except for those among certain family members. The bill also would address private sales at gun shows, said state Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury.

Currently, if someone purchases a firearm at a gun show from someone who is federally licensed, they go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, she said.

Hartley said she has heard other private sales might be happening in the parking lot of the gun show without background checks. The bill would require a private seller to call state police to get a background check done before selling a gun, she said.

State Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, said he thought this was the "minimum" thing the committee should be doing in response to Newtown.

"I am a strong advocate of sportsmen, but I don't think one can really argue against criminal background checks for the purchase of guns," he said.

Senate Bill 710 requires that someone who organizes or operates a gun show must obtain a gun show permit from the local authority, such as the chief of police or the first selectman of a town. A gun show is defined as any event that has 50 or more firearms exhibited for sale, transfer or exchange to the public, according to the bill.

The gun show promoter must notify the local authority no later than 60 days before the gun show begins, according to the bill.

Senate Bill 897 would repeal current law and limit a person carrying a loaded firearm to having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 instead of 0.10. The bill would make blood alcohol regulations for hunting match the laws for driving and boating.

Legislators voted 22-1 in favor of Senate Bill 299, which aims to provide a way for police departments to notify other police departments of an emergency. This could help departments share resources and tighten security, according to the bill.

The police chief of Middlebury, Thomas Hanley, testified earlier this month that the state has had a radio system in place since Sept. 11, but that it hasn't been used properly. He said he learned about the Newtown tragedy from the media as opposed to from other departments.

j.somers@theday.com

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