Legislative leaders pledged bipartisan cooperation and quick action Friday at the first meeting of their new task force on changing state laws and policies on gun control, school security and
Also Friday, Gov.
"We can and will do that on behalf of the people of Newtown, in memory of those we've lost," and for all state residents, he said. "Not only can we lead to making our state a better and safer place — we can set an example for other states and our representatives down in Washington to follow our lead. … I know we will get there."
They want to get there quickly with at least the first round of legislative fixes, the leaders said.
"The expectation is that we will be able to take … action hopefully before the end of February," said House Speaker
"Working quickly does not necessarily mean, and should not mean, working in haste," Sharkey said. "I think we need to be drawing in as much information as we can, from as many sources as we can, to make sure that what we are doing is … keeping our children and our communities safe."
House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, said: "I think all any of us could ask for … as we proceed through this process is tolerance, civility, understanding [and] bipartisan cooperation."
"I believe that we should … be bold, to be strong and to be comprehensive in our work," said state Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn. "We can respond quickly and decisively, and still do it in a thoughtful and deliberative way."
Williams said he was "pleased that we are able to do this not behind closed doors, but with transparency, with the public invited to participate" in four public hearings.
Three of the hearings will be hosted in Room 2C of the LOB by task force subcommittees focusing on different issues: school security on Friday at 9:30 a.m., gun safety on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m., and mental health on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. The task force, as a whole, will travel to Newtown High School for a fourth public hearing on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m.
About 50 members of the House and the Senate — whose combined membership is 187 — are on the task force, including the Democratic and Republican leaders of various committees that will need to approve any legislation before it goes to the floor of either chamber for a vote.
All four legislators with parts of Newtown in their districts are on the task force, and one of them, newly elected Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, asked at Friday's meeting that as lawmakers confront gun control and other potentially divisive issues, they conduct themselves with the same sensitivity, dignity and generosity as the citizens and leaders of his community. He said that Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra, for example, has helped prevent the situation locally "from becoming a circus," and "we've done a wonderful job at protecting the privacy of the families."
"We do have an opportunity to do something significant here," said Senate Majority Leader
Among the most prominent proposals that legislative leaders have said they favor are closing loopholes in the state's ban on assault weapons so that it covers the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the weapon used by 20-year-old
Malloy, Biden Meet
Such state legislation won't be strong enough if other states don't have the same restrictions, gun-control advocates say, and Malloy went to Washington on Friday to talk with the vice president about subjects including parallel legislation at the federal level that was proposed during the week by President
Meeting in the White House's West Wing, the Democratic governor, Biden and staff members for both discussed Obama's proposed program of executive and legislative action — including a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that would eliminate differences "across state borders," Malloy said.
The federal legislation needs to be tough and comprehensive because in the past it's been impossible to leave any exceptions "and have the
Malloy added that "high on our hope list" is congressional passage of Obama's proposal to "close all the loopholes" in the system of checking the backgrounds of prospective gun buyers for possible criminal convictions or mental health problems.
Such checks happen when guns are purchased from federally licensed dealers. But they aren't required for an estimated 40 percent of gun purchases that happen between private individuals, many of them at gun shows. Malloy said there's a need for "universal background checks" covering "anybody, anywhere" who wants to buy any kind of gun or rifle.
Biden did much of the research that led to Obama's proposals during weeks of meetings with individuals and groups.
"The vice president is sharing a lot of information with us" — handing over materials that "we're going to go through" for use in Connecticut, Malloy said. "It was very helpful." One of the aides in the meeting Friday was Malloy's chief of staff, Mark Ojakian.
Malloy will stay in Washington over the weekend, participating in a "day of service" Saturday sponsored by the White House, and addressing the