Shelton delegation splits on state’s new gun law

Shelton’s state legislative delegation took different sides on the state’s new gun-control legislation, being promoted as the toughest one in the nation.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly supported the measure while state Reps. Lawrence G. Miller and Jason Perillo voted against the bill. All three are Republicans.

The legislation passed the state House by 105-44 and the state Senate by 26-10. Both legislative chambers have large Democratic majorities, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — who strongly supported the bill — is a Democrat.

Bans certain weapons

The new law requires a background check for all private gun sales, bans the sale of more than 100 types of military-style rifles, raises the age requirement to buy a rifle from 18 to 21, requires owners of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets to register them with the State Police, and limits new magazines to be sold to a 10-bullet capacity.

Sen. Kelly: ‘Comprehensive’ approach

Kelly said his support was based on the legislation being “a comprehensive bill” that covered mental health and school safety as well as guns. “It was necessary for Connecticut to react to the tragedy in Newtown,” he said.

Kelly said the bill includes $15 million in bonding for school security upgrades and would address mental health issues by increasing public awareness efforts, case coordination, and probate court initiatives.

It also would create a legislative task force to focus on mental health screening, early intervention and treatment, particularly to address delivery gaps for those ages 16 to 25, he said.

On guns, Kelly said the debate around the bill “became very political” and faced opposition on both extremes. He said the law won’t take guns away from law-abiding citizens but will change what can be sold in the future.

“This bill took a rational approach,” he said.

Rep. Perillo: ‘We punted’

Perillo said the bill failed to adequately address mental health issues. “We had a real opportunity to address mental health in the state and I believe that is at the core of this, and we really punted on that,” he said.

Perillo said the bill should have put school resource officers (police) in the schools, expanded the role of school psychologists, and mandated the reporting of at-risk youth. “We did not do that,” he said.

He said he plans to introduce legislation in the future to deal with these concerns.

By focusing on guns, Perillo said, the bill “gives folks a false sense of security” and was falsely promoted by the media and politicians “as a cure-all to our school security problems.”

Perillo said he does support expanded background checks, but based on his conversations with law enforcement officials doesn’t think that restricting the size of bullet magazines is an answer.

Rep. Miller: Gunman needed help

Miller doesn’t think the new state law will prevent shootings. “If there’s someone out there who is unstable, they’ll get a gun,” he said.

“Everyone is blaming the gun, but we have to look at the young man,” he said. “He was off the wall.”

Miller said what happened in Newtown was due to a mentally deranged young man not getting the help he needed, despite the knowledge by his mother and a limited few others in the community that something was very wrong.

“This might have been prevented if she’d taken action earlier,” he said of the mother, whom the gunman also killed.

Some people may need to be institutionalized in some way to protect society, Miller said. “We need to keep some of these people locked up,” he said.

Miller said the correspondence he received from constituents ran two-to-one against the bill. He noted there are fish-and-game clubs in both Shelton and Stratford, both of which he represents.

“These are law-abiding guys who like to go hunting and fishing,” he said. “They felt this would infringe on their constitutional rights.”