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Conn. moves cautiously on guns in Newtown's wake

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm •  Published: January 9, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A month after the Newtown school tragedy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is moving cautiously on gun control in Connecticut, a relatively liberal Northeastern state that nevertheless has a strong gun culture and is home to some of the nation's best-known firearm makers.

Gun control advocates and their allies in the state General Assembly want to pass new restrictions on weapons while passions are still high over the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting rampage Dec. 14 that left 20 children and six women dead. But they are bracing for strong opposition.

Gun owners have packed statehouse hearings in recent years to oppose measures that would tighten the state's gun laws. And gun manufacturers such as Colt Manufacturing Co., which traces its history to a Hartford factory that Samuel Colt opened in 1855, have threatened in the past to leave Connecticut, taking hundreds of jobs with them, if certain requirements became law.

Malloy, a Democrat, became choked up when he mentioned Newtown in his State of the State Address on Wednesday, saying: "Let us do everything in our power to ensure that Connecticut never again suffers such a loss, that we take real steps to make our kids and our communities safer."

He offered no specific proposals, instead noting that an advisory panel he set up last week will issue recommendations in March on gun control, mental health treatment and other issues arising from the Newtown massacre.

Betty Gallo, a lobbyist for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said the state has an opportunity to become a national model on gun control. She said she understands the governor is taking a comprehensive look at what could prevent another tragedy, but she and others worry about opposition.

"There are people who have gun manufacturers in their town who are truly worried about constituents' jobs," Gallo said. "We expect problems with retailers and manufacturers."

In addition to West Hartford-based Colt, Connecticut is home to the gun makers Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Mossberg & Sons. None of the companies responded to requests for comment.

Also, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association, is based in Newtown, only a few miles from the scene of the Sandy Hook shooting. A spokesman, Mike Bazinet, said it is taking part in the gun control dialogue led by Vice President Joe Biden but has not gotten involved on the state level.

"If we were asked to participate in any process that has as its goal the reduction of violence and the protection of our children, we as an industry would be pleased to take part in that process," Bazinet said.

Connecticut, whose legislature has long been controlled by Democrats, ranks among the states with the most stringent gun control laws, but proposals to make them stronger have run into strong resistance.

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