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'Grandfather clause' in Connecticut gun bill angers Sandy Hook families

Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters file

Mark and Jackie Barden, parents of Daniel Barden, 6, a victim of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, holding a picture of their son on Jan. 14. They spoke out against the compromise legislation Monday, April 1, in Hartford, Conn.

Lawmakers and families of the victims of the deadly shootings last year at a Connecticut elementary school were divided Monday over compromise legislation that would ban some but not all high-capacity ammunition magazines in the state.

Lawmakers announced Monday afternoon that they had reached a deal on a bipartisan measure designed to limit high-powered weapons, 3½ months after 20 children and six other people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Related: Connecticut lawmakers reach deal on 'most comprehensive' gun limits in US


The Legislature will convene Wednesday, with a vote expected as early as this week.

The would ban the sale of magazines able to handle more than 10 bullets. Adam Lanza, the gunman in the Dec. 14 shootings, used magazines accommodating 30 bullets.

But in a compromise, the lawmakers included a "grandfather clause" allowing people who already own such magazines to keep them, subject to registration.

Families of the Newtown victims objected, sending a letter to legislative leaders Monday saying more children might have survived had Lanza been carrying smaller magazines.

Lanza "fired 154 shots in approximately 4 minutes, killing 20 children and 6 educators. Miraculously, in the time that it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape and are alive today," they said in the letter, which is reprinted below.

"We are left to wonder, what if the Sandy Hook shooter had been forced to reload not 6 times but 15 times. Would more children, would our children, be alive today?"


Mark Barden, whose son Daniel died in the shootings, said at a news conference Monday in Hartford: "The more times you have to reload, the more opportunities there are to escape and to stop the shooting. In the amount of time — it was somewhere around four minutes — he was able to fire 154 rounds. I think that speaks volumes about reducing the size" of magazines.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sided with the parents.

"I have been clear for weeks that a ban on the possession and sale of high capacity magazines is an important part of our effort to prevent gun violence — simply banning their sale moving forward would not be an effective solution," Malloy said in a statement Monday. 

"This morning, we heard from victims' families on that very point. They've asked for an up or down vote on that provision and, whether it's in the larger bill or as an amendment, the families, and every resident of our state, deserve a vote."

Following is the letter parents of the Sandy Hook victims sent Monday to Connecticut legislative leaders:

Dear Senators and State Representatives,

We, the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School together with the parents and spouses of educators killed that day in Newtown, are writing today regarding gun legislation currently under consideration by Connecticut's legislature. We are grateful for your leadership on this issue and for the efforts of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety to craft a comprehensive package of legislation to keep our communities and children safer from violence. We feel strongly, however, that the current proposed action on large capacity ammunition magazines is inadequate and must be strengthened.

We feel a very personal connection to this issue. The Sandy Hook shooter carried 10 magazines that held 30 bullets each. We now know that he left many smaller magazines at home. He fired 154 shots in approximately 4 minutes, killing 20 children and 6 educators. Miraculously, in the time that it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape and are alive today.

We are left to wonder, what if the Sandy Hook shooter had been forced to reload not 6 times but 15 times. Would more children, would our children, be alive today?

The current proposal under consideration in Hartford would allow the sale of magazines with a capacity of 10 bullets or fewer. The proposal, however, grandfathers existing large capacity magazines leaving a gaping loophole on, what we believe, is the most dangerous feature of an assault weapon. Individuals will easily be able to purchase high capacity magazines in other states, bring them to Connecticut and claim to have owned them before the law took effect. Proving that the purchase or transfer took place post-enactment will be difficult, if not impossible.

Additionally, the "grandfathered" possession of large capacity magazines is not in the public interest and exposes our communities to an unacceptable risk of additional mass shootings. We must do more. If there is reason to stop the further sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, a principle with which we wholeheartedly agree, it makes sense to take steps to prevent the potential damage that existing magazines could cause. How can we not remove large capacity magazines from Connecticut if we know that it might save even one more child or teacher or parent?

On behalf of the loved ones who were violently taken from us, please reconsider your approach to large capacity magazines as part of the comprehensive package of gun legislation. We are calling today for an up or down vote on the issue. Thank you for your consideration of our views.

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