Conn. law­mak­ers say gun bills might ac­tu­ally pass

The Norwalk Hour - - NEWS - By Dan Freed­man [email protected]

WASH­ING­TON — Af­ter nearly six years of dis­ap­point­ment fol­low­ing the Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School mass shoot­ing, Con­necti­cut Democrats in Congress say there is a mo­men­tum shift on guns grow­ing out of the 2018 elec­tion, and that new laws may pass not only the newly Demo­cratic-con­trolled House, but the GOP Se­nate as well.

And when they get to Don­ald Trump’s desk, the NRA-backed pres­i­dent might ac­tu­ally sign them, said Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal.

“The kind­est thing that can be said about Trump is he has no real con­vic­tions on this topic,” said Blu­men­thal on Thurs­day. “If enough Repub­li­cans join us, he’ll find a way to sign.”

Se­nate Repub­li­cans, who al­most uni­formly have op­posed new gun pro­pos­als, may now re­verse course, he said.

“I think this lat­est elec­tion has sent a clear mes­sage to my Repub­li­can col­leagues: They can­not sim­ply ad­here to the NRA (Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion) line,” Blu­men­thal said.

Speak­ing at a meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton spon­sored by New­town Ac­tion Al­liance, Blu­men­thal plus Con­necti­cut’s Sen. Chris Mur­phy and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, all ac­knowl­edged that their new op­ti­mism is a marked con­trast to the re­cent past, when Repub­li­cans dom­i­nated Capi­tol Hill.

Since the New­town shoot­ing on Dec. 14, 2012, took the lives of 20 chil­dren and six adult staff mem­bers, con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and some red-state Democrats have ef­fec­tively blocked the path on mea­sures such as ex­panded back­ground checks and bar­ring ter­ror­ism sus­pects on the “no-fly” list from pur­chas­ing guns.

But those days are over, mem­bers of the Con­necti­cut del­e­ga­tion con­fi­dently pre­dicted to a crowd of gun-is­sue ac­tivists, many wear­ing New­town Ac­tion Al­liance’s sig­na­ture green shirt.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple voted and they voted strongly for gun sense,” said Esty, who did not seek re-elec­tion and will not be in of­fice when the new Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled 116th Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3.

Mur­phy noted that Democrats sup­port­ing new gun laws won House seats not only in the North­east and the West Coast, but in un­likely places such as Texas, Florida and Ge­or­gia.

He pointed to Lucy McBath, who won in a sub­ur­ban At­lanta dis­trict once oc­cu­pied by con­ser­va­tive stal­warts Newt Gin­grich and Tom Price.

McBath lost her son in 2012 when a gun­man shot him and friends as they sat in a gas sta­tion over the sup­pos­edly loud mu­sic they were play­ing. The case be­came a test of “stand your ground” laws in Ge­or­gia and other mainly South­ern and West­ern states.

“This is a win­ning is­sue ev­ery­where,” said Mur­phy. “What we know is we … are win­ning more and more and more.”

The high spir­its on the gun-control side are in marked con­trast to the blues on the gun-rights side.

The NRA is go­ing through an un­cus­tom­ary de­cline in in­come and mem­ber­ship. The na­tion’s premier gun-rights group even went so far as to take away free cof­fee from em­ploy­ees at their sub­ur­ban Wash­ing­ton head­quar­ters.

Gun sales, par­tic­u­larly of ri­fles and shot guns, have plum­meted since Trump re­placed Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. An­a­lysts at­trib­uted the drop to eas­ing of ten­sions over Obama ef­forts to ex­pand back­ground checks and en­act other gun-safety mea­sures.

The Thurs­day morn­ing gath­er­ing fol­lowed the sixth an­nual vigil at a church Wed­nes­day night here, just a few blocks from the U.S. Capi­tol.

The events have be­come some­thing of a rit­ual in the six years since the New­town shoot­ing. Fam­ily mem­bers of gun-vi­o­lence vic­tims — and also a few sur­vivors of gun­shot wounds — hold up pic­tures of lost loved ones, briefly tell their sto­ries, and prom­ise to “honor with ac­tion.”

If Congress does in­deed pass new gun laws, “I would like to say next year, ‘we hon­ored with ac­tion,’” Blu­men­thal said.

He promised to rein­tro­duce a mea­sure that would cre­ate a “red flag” process by which fed­eral judges could is­sue or­ders to seize guns tem­po­rar­ily if ev­i­dence is pre­sented that gun owners are a dan­ger to them­selves or oth­ers.

The bill is mod­eled on Con­necti­cut’s 19-year-old risk war­rant statute, passed by the leg­is­la­ture af­ter a dis­grun­tled ac­coun­tant, Matthew Beck, killed four co-work­ers with the Con­necti­cut Lot­tery Cor­po­ra­tion in New­ing­ton be­fore shoot­ing him­self in the head.

Dan Freed­man / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, left, poses with Ash­ley Colombo, 12, of Brook­field and her mother, Kerri Colombo, fol­low­ing a meet­ing be­tween Con­necti­cut leg­is­la­tors and mem­bers of the New­town Ac­tion Al­liance, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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