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Connecticut bans assault weapons.

Connecticut has become the third state, following California and New Jersey, to pass a comprehensive ban on assault weapons. Hawaii prohibits assault pistols, but not rifles.

Supporters of the new Connecticut law, which lists specific weapons, say it is a reasonable limitation on the right to bear arms, tempered by public safety needs. They believe it will help curb urban crime. Opponents contend that it affects only law-abiding gun owners and fails to address the real source of crime, which is criminals.

Even the term "assault weapon"--which advocates consider an anti-firearms buzzword--is much in dispute, partly because there is no clear-cut definition. It can include certain handguns and shotguns but is often used to describe semiautomatic firearms with large-capacity ammunition clips.

Though comprehensive bans do not generally have broad-based support, the bill's trip through the General Assembly was particularly arduous since the Colt Sporter, manufactured in Connecticut, was included with more than 50 other guns.

The bill's main sponsor, Senator George C. Jepsen, admitted surprise that the legislation survived seven one-vote margins, requiring Lieutenant Governor Eunice Groark's vote to break the final 18-18 Senate tie. Governor Lowell Weicker signed the bill into law within hours of its June passage.

Owners of guns now banned do not have to relinquish their firearms, but must register them and obtain a certificate stating they were purchased before Oct. 1, 1993, the date the law takes effect.

Adding the Sporter, Colt's best-selling rifle, to the list of prohibited weapons was expected by opponents to help sound the death knell for the bill. The state had come to Colt's rescue just three years ago by investing $25 million in the historic company and buying nearly half its stock. And Colt was relying heavily on Sporter sales to recover from a voluntary bankruptcy filing. However, repeated efforts to exempt the Sporter from the ban failed.

But it isn't over in Connecticut. The National Rifle Association is planning a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the ban, according to spokeswoman Mary Sue Faulkner. California's Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act has survived constitutional challenges. A Denver district court in March overturned that city's ordinance banning semiautomatic assault weapons, ruling it unconstitutional and vague, but five months later, the judge allowed the ordinance to take effect while the decision was being appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Elsewhere this session, an assault weapons ban was easily defeated in Rhode Island, but Minnesota added the guns to a list of firearms that can be purchased after a mandatory waiting period.

The New York Assembly passed a measure prohibiting assault weapons before it adjourned, but the bill is not expected to make it out of committee in the Senate.

An attempt this year to overturn New Jersey's ban made it through both houses, but the Republican-controlled legislature failed to override Democratic Governor Jim Florio's veto.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of State Legislatures
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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