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State's gun law working as intended

Published April 13. 2014 4:00AM

A year after the General Assembly passed and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed historic gun legislation inspired by the killings in Newtown, there are strong indications the new law is doing what it was meant to do.

We hasten to add it is not doing what was never intended, from the illegal seizure of guns by the government, as feared by the most ardent misinterpreters of the Second Amendment, to making criminals of those who failed to register their weapons in the allotted time. They did that to themselves and are no different from those who choose to drive without a license.

The law bans the possession and sale of assault weapons, including the type used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six adults in their school in a five-minute massacre. It also bans large-capacity magazines like those used by the killer, while permitting people who already own these magazines and weapons to register and keep them.

In addition, it requires background checks for purchasers of all categories of guns and a permit to buy from gun shows or other private sources, as well as from gun dealers. Convicted felons caught with rifle ammunition face the same penalties as those caught with the weapons.

The bill provides additional funding for mental health treatment and school safety measures. It is, by any standard, a sensible law, meant to promote public safety and punish only those who abuse their Second Amendment rights.

Even though tens of thousands of rifles classified by the state as assault weapons remain unregistered, according to gun industry estimates, Gov. Malloy announced on April 4 that more than 50,000 of the weapons have been registered and accounted for. The governor also reported 38,209 gun owners have filed declarations listing the number and type of large capacity magazines they own, with some individual declarations indicating ownership of hundreds of the now illegal magazines.

The National Rifle Association and other gun interests shed false tears about those likely to have their guns taken from them and, as expected, some did lose their right to bear arms and deservedly so. In the past year, said Gov. Malloy, 1,747 pistol permits were revoked for reasons that included restraining and protective orders filed in court against the owners, various mental health issues and drunk driving convictions.

Were lives saved or serious injuries avoided because these people lost the right to carry weapons? There is no way of knowing but disarming these people was surely the proper course to take. Are Connecticut residents safer in their homes and schools and other public places because these permits were revoked? We know the answer to that question.

A year ago, shortly after the gun law was signed, a report by the Brookings Institution noted that contrary to the gun advocates' hopes, "The Connecticut legislation may be a success. It may limit - not stop, but limit - crime, keep some weapons out of the hands of dangerous offenders, keep schools and other public places safer, provide better preventive mental health care, assist law enforcement in their investigations, and still allow citizens the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights. This scenario terrifies the most extreme elements of the gun lobby. It threatens not the Constitution but their own existence."

The report, by Brookings Fellow John Hudak, pointed out that the passage of the strict Connecticut law "exemplifies one of the most beautiful attributes of the American Constitution: Federalism. Federalism lets states within bounds to implement laws separate from the national government. It allows for an evaluation of policies and their effectiveness. States do this with law enforcement, budgeting, taxation, health care, tort reform, marriage, drug policy and in a whole host of areas."

We would add that Federalism, enshrined in the Tenth Amendment, the amendment cherished by true conservatives, emphasizes the limited nature of powers delegated to the federal government and reserves those to the states. When, after the Newtown massacre, the Congress failed to act out of fear of the NRA, Connecticut took the matter into its own hands, as the Tenth Amendment encourages, and with a bipartisan effort, passed legislation to keep its people safe.

Now, the earliest returns are in. The Constitution, with all of its amendments, remains intact, guns are out of the hands of some who shouldn't have them and the state may be a safer place. We - all of us - should await further developments, but so far, the law appears to be working.

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