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Expert: Conn. Gun Laws Need Background Checks, Limit On Guns Purchased At Once Following School Shooting

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File photo of a woman holding her child at a church nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (credit: Douglas Healey/Getty Images)

File photo of a woman holding her child at a church nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (credit: Douglas Healey/Getty Images)

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NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBS Connecticut) – As the reasoning behind the horrific mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 27 dead, at least 18 of which are children, continues to be investigated, the tragedy will inevitably open up new discussion concerning stricter gun laws in Connecticut and nationwide.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday morning comes during a time when Connecticut is considered to have some of the stronger gun laws in the nation. According to “Gun Laws Matter 2012” from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Connecticut has the fourth strongest gun laws in the nation, which coincides with the state as having the sixth lowest gun death rate. The state also “exports crime guns at a rate that is less than half the national average,” according to “Gun Laws Matter 2012.”

But even with gun laws that are considered better than other states, the laws are by no means strict. Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told CBS Connecticut that background checks are not required on all transfers of firearms, giving easier access to those who would otherwise fail a background check.

When it comes to buying guns from licensed dealers in Connecticut, a gun license and eligibility certificate is needed. In Friday’s shooting, police confirmed that one of the guns used was a .22-caliber Long Rifle, a gun often used for sports shooting. According to the state, a state permit is not required to purchase a long gun in Connecticut such as the .22-caliber Long Rifle reportedly used in the tragedy. In regard to long guns in the state, there is a two-week period on transfers of long guns if the purchase is made through a licensed dealer. But if the purchase is made through a private dealer, there is no waiting period for access in Connecticut to the king of long gun used in the tragedy in Newtown.

“Some of the laws Connecticut does have includes a background-check law at gun shows, but there are no background checks required for private transfers of long guns,” Thomas said. “If I sold you my gun and you lived next door, you don’t have to have a background check. You’re not supposed to have assault weapons and .50-caliber rifles, but you can transfer and possess large caliber magazines through private dealers.”

Though the number of guns used Friday morning remains unclear at this point, a number of loopholes in the state’s gun laws could be examined. One of them is that the state does not limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time through both licensed and private dealers. The state also fails at regulating ammunition sales and imposing design safety standards on guns that make their way into the state, Thomas said. The unlimited number of firearms that can be purchased at once coupled with the lack of transparency on ammunition sales facilitates a loophole for which gun owners to build a potentially sizable arsenal through both licensed and private dealers.

“Connecticut does have good laws, but a lot more could be done,” Thomas said. “We continue to say that part of the issue is simply there are too many guns and they are too easy to get.”

Following one of the most horrific school shootings in the country’s history, the tragedy could indeed bring about change in Connecticut. Thomas said she wouldn’t be surprised if background checks would be enforced on the transfers of all firearms in the state. She added that the ban of large capacity ammunition magazines could also come about if the state is serious about tightening up gun laws in the wake of the school shooting.

“When you focus on issues that impact mass shootings, people get their heads around what’s at stake,” Thomas said.

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