HARTFORD, Conn., April 2 (UPI) -- Connecticut's Legislature will pass the nation's toughest gun law, top lawmakers predicted after agreeing on a measure that strengthens an assault-rifle ban.
"There were some who said 'the Connecticut effect' would wear off -- that it would wear off in Connecticut and it would wear off across the country," Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, a Democrat, said flanked by five other legislative leaders at a Monday night state Capitol news conference.
"What they didn't know was that Democrats and Republicans would come together and work to put together the strongest and most comprehensive bill in the United States to fight gun violence, to strengthen the security at our schools, and to provide the mental health services that are necessary," he said.
"Knowing that that tragedy happened in Connecticut, it was up to Connecticut to show the way," said House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, a Republican. "And I'm very proud to say ... the package that we are introducing ... has accomplished that goal."
The bipartisan deal -- which legislative leaders of both parties predicted would pass the 151-member state House and 36-member Senate Wednesday -- would strengthen the state's ban on semiautomatic assault rifles to include weapons such as the AR-15 used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Dec. 14.
Connecticut's law currently defines an assault rifle as having two military-style features, such as a pistol grip and a flash suppressor.
The new measure would require only one such feature.
A flash suppressor, attached to the muzzle of a rifle or other gun, reduces the gun's visible signature while firing by rapidly cooling the burning gases that exit the muzzle. Its primary purpose is to reduce the chances a shooter will be blinded in low-light conditions.
The new measure also lists more than 160 firearms by name as assault weapons, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant reported. The current law lists 66, the New Haven (Conn.) Register said.
The measure also would require new eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition; mandate offenders convicted of any of more than 40 weapons offenses register with the state; and require universal background checks for the sale of all firearms.
It would also ban the future sale of high-capacity magazines that store and feed more than 10 bullets.
But despite a plea Monday from relatives of 11 Sandy Hook victims, the measure would let existing owners of large-capacity magazines keep them, provided they declare by Jan. 1 how many they own and submit to restrictions on their use.
The restrictions include loading a magazine with 10 or fewer rounds, except in the owner's home or at a shooting range, where they can be fully loaded.
In addition, an owner would be allowed to bequeath an assault rifle to a family member but couldn't sell it except to a licensed firearms dealer who would have to re-sell it outside the state, the Courant said.
Family members representing 11 children and educators who died at Sandy Hook appealed earlier in the day for more restrictive legislation.
"We learned, the way that no other parents should learn, that the most dangerous, dangerous part of an assault weapon is the magazine," Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan, 6, was killed in Newtown, said, reading a letter.
"The horrible, brutal truth is that 154 bullets were fired in 4 minutes, killing our children, our daughters, our wives. The shooter carried 10, 30-round large-capacity magazines," she said.
"We have learned that in the time it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape," Hockley said. "We ask ourselves every day -- every minute -- if those magazines had held 10 rounds, forcing the shooter to reload at least six more times, would our children be alive today?"
Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy told the relatives he agreed "simply banning [the magazines'] sale moving forward would not be an effective solution."
The governor's spokesman, Andrew Doba, said he had no comment when asked Monday night if Malloy would sign the negotiated bill or veto it.