Gun legislation prompts split vote

State senators and representatives from the Greater New Milford area were divided in their votes on the Connecticut's firearms, school safety and mental health legislation.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the landmark bill into law April 4 but, before the bill had passed his desk, legislators in both houses voted on its approval.

"Yes" votes were cast by state representatives Arthur O'Neill, R-Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington, Richard Smith, R-Sherman, and Roberta Willis, D-Kent.

A "yes" vote was also cast by state Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Sherman.

"The massacre that took place on Dec. 14 forever changed our state," O'Neill said. "This bill delivers a bipartisan legislation that fights for both the rights of Connecticut gun owners and the safety of our citizens and children."

Voting against the bill were state Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford and Kent, and state Rep. Cecilia Buck-Taylor, R-New Milford.

A "no" vote was also cast by state Sen. Robert Kane, R-Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington.

The bill, created by a bi-partisan panel in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook massacre, expands the state's assault weapons ban, prohibits the use of detachable magazines with a capacity for over ten rounds, and requires permits or certificates of eligibility to purchase long guns and ammunition.

The bill also requires universal background checks for the sale of all firearms in the state. Those who own weapons falling under the expansion of banned weapons or large capacity magazines may keep them, but they must be registered with the state.

Chapin said he voted "no" because of concerns some provisions in the legislation "would penalize law-abiding gun owners."

"While there are some worthwhile provisions that focus on gun violence, improving mental health care and school safety measures," Chapin said, "I could not support (the) legislation."

Buck-Taylor said, by not being allowed to separate individual components of the bill -- school safety, mental health and gun control -- House members were limited to an "all or none" vote.

That proposal to separate components in the bill was presented by O'Neill and was voted down.

"I cannot be part of a process that sacrifices citizen's constitutional rights," Buck-Taylor said.

Quoting former President Ronald Reagan, she added "It's a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun control laws."

For Sen. Robert Kane, a vote against the bill was necessary because he felt it did not address the mental-health component successfully.

Kane served on the bipartisan task force which addressed flaws in the mental health system. He objected to the final bill establishing yet another task force, while funding is proposed to be cut to mental health services as the state legislature works on the upcoming budget.

"The thorough review of the bill before me led me to conclude that its passage would not have prevented future Newtowns, future Columbines, or future Virginia Techs," Kane said.

"I voted "no" because I feel we need to be looking at society as a whole," he concluded. "Unfortunately, the bill before me did not do that."; 860-355-7322