HARTFORD, Conn. – Bipartisan legislation to prevent gun violence, enhance school security and ensure the availability of mental health services in Connecticut has achieved state senate approval in a vote of 26 to 10, state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said in a press release. The bill proceeded to the House of Representatives, where passage is expected later Wednesday evening, he said.
A group of Democratic and Republican legislators formed in January to conduct a review of current law and make recommendations on what changes might be made following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The final bill was negotiated and agreed to by leaders from both parties. Duff said the highlights of its provisions include:
Gun Violence Prevention
• Establishes a first-in-the-nation dangerous weapon offender registry for those convicted of weapons-related offenses.
• Requires “universal background checks” for the sale of all firearms immediately.
• Expands the Connecticut Assault Weapons Ban to include more than 100 new weapons.
• Immediately bans the sale or purchase of large capacity magazines, and imposes extremely stringent restrictions on the use of those currently possessed.
• Requires new state issued eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition.
• Establishes the School Safety Infrastructure Council to develop safety standards for school building projects by 2014.
• Reauthorizes the school security infrastructure competitive grant program to reimburse towns for upgrades to school security infrastructure.
• Requires that school security and safety plans be developed at each Connecticut school.
• Requires all state and independent colleges and universities in Connecticut to submit their security plan to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
• Requires the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to administer a mental health first aid training program to teach people to recognize the signs of mental disorders in children and young adults and connect them with services. Allows boards of education to require teachers and other school employees to participate.
• Expands the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program by adding ACT teams to three new locations. The ACT program provides recovery-oriented treatment and support services through a mobile, multi-disciplinary team.
• Adds additional slots for case management and coordination to assist people with mental illness who are involved with the probate system.
• Expands health insurance coverage requirements for various mental health services.
Duff said he hopes it sets an example for others.
“Dec. 14th started off like any other day, cold and clear like this one,” he said in the press release. “When we learned about the horror that had taken place, it felt very much as it did after Sept. 11th. We all wanted to do something, to try and prevent such a tragedy from happening again. That began a bipartisan process, months of meetings and public hearings which led to this consensus legislation. We heard from many, many people, then came together to craft a bill which addresses gun violence, mental health, and school security. I hope that around the nation and in Washington, D.C. others will take note of our bipartisan approach.”