Hartford -- Three of the four state Senators from southeastern Connecticut voted against the bill on gun control, mental health and school safety today.
The bill passed 26 to 10 and has gone to the House of Representatives.
State Sen. Andrew Maynard, state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and State Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, voted against the bill. State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford voted in favor.
Shortly before the vote was taken, they spoke about the reasoning behind their positions.
Everyone wants to make sure that another tragedy does not occur, but "I think in my view this bill runs a little off track," Maynard said. "I just don't have a comfort level with a bill that goes that far."
Maynard said he was not given enough time to thoroughly review the bill because it came out this morning and that constituents from his rural community who are "proud" sportsmen and traditional folks had valid concerns about being able to protect themselves from intruders and the government.
"It is their right to feel that," Maynard said. "I don't share their same weariness of the government because I have the privilege of working in the government."
But he said his neighbors and friends feel passionately about the erosion of their Second Amendment rights.
"I will defend them on principle, not because they are gun nuts or fringe elements, but because this is who we are as a people, this is what was established as a Bill of Rights when the Constitution was ratified."
Democrats "jealously guard" a woman's right to choose after that hard-won battle, he said.
"So while I don't share the same doubt and misgivings of an abusive government, I understand their passion," Maynard said.
Osten said she would like to say that the bill would make changes so that "no one would have to see another dead 6-year-old, that no one would have to respond to a tragedy as significant what happened down at Sandy Hook. But this legislation does not provide that protection, in my opinion. It puts at risk legal gun owners."
Many constituents from the rural 19th District have reached out to her, Osten said. This bill puts people who purchase weapons for hunting and competition at risk, she said.
As a former corrections officer she said one of the problems is that criminals are able to bargain away the gun charges against them. "We can create a registry of those who commit crimes, but if we don't find them guilty of weapons charges the registry will be left empty," she said. The bill proposes a statewide dangerous weapon offender registry.
She said this bill also does nothing to stop the daily gun violence in urban cities.
"I would like to stand here and say we are going to correct all the ills of the world, with those who use weapons illegally, but I believe that this piece of legislation attacks the legal gun owners and those who have them for their own protection," Osten said.
There is a clear problem with mental health services in this state, she said. Adam Lanza's family was troubled for years and ignored, she said.
"Adam Lanza was the one who killed those 20 young children and six adults," Osten said. "He is the one we should hold accountable today, not the legal gun owners in this state."
"I feel this bill is creating unnecessary harm for (law-abiding citizens)," Linares said. "I do believe we need to head in the direction of improving our mental health system in the state of Connecticut.
He said lawmakers missed the opportunity to reform the mental health programs in Connecticut in a responsible way.
"I am proud to support (the bill) and certainly hope that colleagues here in the circle will do the same," Stillman said. "I believe this bill is a great opportunity for Connecticut to set a framework for other states to follow."
The bill provides for universal background checks, an expansion of the assault weapons ban and a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The bill also requires background checks for the purchase of ammunition. The bill would expand mental health programs and more tightly monitor how insurance companies provide mental health services. Schools would have access to more funds for school security infrastructure and would be required to maintain safety plans.