Members of the Public Safety and Security Committee became the first lawmakers to cast votes on gun control legislation this session when they approved three noncontroversial measures Tuesday.
With no opposition, the committee passed proposals requiring criminal background checks for the private purchase of guns and new permitting requirements to host gun shows. A third measure would reduce the acceptable blood-alcohol limit for hunters to mirror the state’s driving-while-intoxicated statutes.
The committee’s action comes as legislative leaders work for a third week to negotiate behind closed doors on bipartisan legislation, which is likely to get fast-tracked past the traditional committee process.
Despite that separate process, Rep. Stephen Dargan, co-chairman of the committee, said it was significant that the panel with cognizance over firearm regulations move legislation this year.
“I think it’s important that this committee moves forward today with the first bills that are actually being voted upon. Now some people might say we don’t go far enough, that we didn’t do anything, but I think we did do something here today by going forward in a bipartisan manner,” he said.
As they’re written now, the three committee bills do not include any of the more controversial proposals, which have been under consideration in the months since Dec. 14 when a gunman murdered 20 first graders and six adults at a elementary school in Newtown.
Last week, the committee hosted a public hearing on a wide range of gun control proposals, drawing around 16 hours of testimony, mostly from 2nd Amendment advocates opposing the legislation. But the measures passed Tuesday were considered bipartisan consensus items.
Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, said he considers himself a strong advocate of sportsmen, but he said expanded background checks were “more or less the minimum thing” lawmakers should pass after the Newtown shooting.
“I think that many legislators have thought it was necessary to respond to the Newtown tragedy,” he said. “I don’t think one can really argue against criminal background checks for the purchase of guns.”
Betty Gallo, a lobbyist for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said she was hoping legislative leaders agree on more comprehensive gun control proposals, but was happy the committee took steps on the issue.
“It’s good to see universal support for some kind of movement around gun violence prevention. We don’t believe they go anywhere near far enough but it shows some willingness to negotiate,” she said.