(Updated 5 p.m.) Families of some of the Newtown victims traveled Friday to the state Capitol to speak with lawmakers behind closed doors to urge them to pass laws that make Connecticut safer. Afterward, some of them spoke with reporters and appeared to be unfazed by the pace of the ongoing negotiations.
“I think they’re doing good work and it’s a work in progress,” said Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was one of 20 children killed on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Barden and his wife were two of a handful of parents who visited with lawmakers on Friday.
The families’ request to pass comprehensive legislation followed a press conference held by anti-gun groups, who were attempting to increase lawmakers’ sense of urgency about including a ban high-capacity magazines like the ones used to kill 26 people on Dec. 14.
A ban on high-capacity magazines, according to sources, has become a sticking point in negotiations between legislative leaders, who are struggling with whether to endorse an outright ban or to allow gun owners to keep the magazines they’ve already purchased.
In a letter, victims’ family members told lawmakers that newly released details of the shooting made it evident “that the 30-round magazines used by the shooter were an essential component in his ability to kill 26 innocent people in the span of less than five minutes. These large-capacity magazines required him to reload only four times during the massacre in which he was able to fire 152 bullets at the children and faculty of Sandy Hook School.”
Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said a ban on these magazines is necessary because, unlike a gun, they can’t be traced and there would be no way to differentiate between those purchased before the ban and those bought after the ban.
At a Capitol press conference Po Murray, of the Newtown Action Alliance, said they don’t believe anyone except for military personnel or police should be allowed to have magazines with more than 10 bullets.
“We’re hoping compromises are not made that will result in the passage of laws that do not go far enough to protect the citizens of the state,” Murray said.
She said they learned 152 shots were fired in five minutes on that “dreadful day.”
“The need to exchange an empty magazine for a loaded one is the only reason many children from Ms. Soto’s class were able to escape with their lives,” Murray said.
That information alone should be enough to convince legislators there needs to be a ban on high-capacity magazines, Murray concluded.
But “some legislators in this building tell each other and us that they [high capacity magazines] are not a factor,” Pinciaro said.
Gun groups have argued that forcing them to give up their high-capacity magazine constitutes confiscation of property they purchased while they were legal.
Pinciaro said that since the government would not be taking the magazines for public use, it would be a regulatory taking. He said there’s no need for the government to offer compensation since owners of this type of ammunition would be given an opportunity to sell it, destroy it, or turn it over to law enforcement.
Jonathan Scalise, president of Advanced Storage Components in New Britain, said the companies he does business with have threatened to withdraw their business if Connecticut passes a law banning the magazines. Like gun manufacturers, Scalise said his business would be hurt by the move because it would lose business, not so much from magazine sales in Connecticut, but from distributors across the country. He said the expense to create a tool that would be able to stamp out a magazine with less than 10 bullets would be too great.
Asked if high-capacity magazines were a sticking point in negotiations, Sen. President Donald Williams, who has been a part of those discussions, said “we have had our ups and downs in negotiations.”
He declined to say anything more about the specifics of those discussions, but he did say Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has not threatened to veto any legislation which didn’t include a ban on high-capacity magazines. Malloy proposed a high-capacity magazine ban when he released his own gun proposals Feb. 21.
But the “silent majority,” as they described themselves, are losing patience with the lack of action on any type of gun legislation.
“Fourteen weeks without action is long enough. We need a vote,” Pinciaro said. “No legislator, no person made to feel the pain that they have felt could have possibly delayed this long.”
Nancy Lefkowitz, a founder of the March for Change group that turned out more than 5,000 for a rally at the state Capitol in favor of gun control, said she is disappointed that the legislature has failed to act because of politics and personal political agendas.
Lefkowitz said she came to the Capitol on Friday to remind legislative leadership of what’s “important” and “what it is we stand for.”
But lawmakers aren’t necessarily concerned about speed.
“When we look back a year from now, five years from now, I think it’s going to be important that we have legislation that’s as strong and comprehensive as possible,” said Williams, who met with the families Friday. “I think if it takes an extra week or two at this point . . . I think everyone will conclude that it’s worth it.”
Legislative leaders received a briefing Friday from state prosecutors conducting the investigation into the shooting.