By Marc Santora and Peter Applebome
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, appearing at a forum on gun violence with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday, proposed a series of tough new gun laws aimed at closing loopholes and banning the type of weapon that was used to kill 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
"Two months ago, our state became the center of a national debate after a tragedy we never imagined could happen here," Mr. Malloy said. "We have changed. And I believe it is now time for our laws to do the same."
Mr. Malloy said he wanted the State Legislature to pass a bill that would require background checks for all gun purchases, ban large capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, expand a ban on assault weapons, require guns to be stored more safely and toughen the enforcement of existing gun laws.
Mr. Biden is expected to also deliver remarks at the conference at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, about 10 miles from where the elementary school massacre was carried out.
While recent polls suggest broad national support for universal background checks, the other issues have proven more politically charged both across the country and in Connecticut.
Mr. Malloy will try to frame the issue around some simple questions:
"Questions like, why is the gun used at Sandy Hook not classified as an "assault weapon' under today's law?" he said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
"Why are background checks required when someone buys a gun in a store, but not when they buy it privately or at a gun show? Why is there no limit on the size of a magazine that can be used in a semiautomatic weapon?"
In January, Mr. Malloy convened a Sandy Hook Advisory Commission to make specific recommendations in the areas of school safety, mental health and gun violence.
The state's General Assembly also convened a bipartisan task force to look at many of the same issues.
But Mr. Malloy said Thursday that to wait for their findings would "run a risk of letting this critical moment in history pass us by."
By jumping into legislative process, Mr. Malloy irked some legislators who wanted to see the bipartisan process set in motion play out. However, gun control advocates and some Democrats feared that any bipartisan proposal would not address the most contentious issues like the assault-weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines. Democrats control both houses of the legislature, so Mr. Malloy can push the legislation through without Republican support, although he has said he would prefer that both parties support the reforms.
The sense of urgency echoed President Obama's remarks during the State of the Union.
"This is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence," Mr. Obama said. But in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, where 20 first graders were killed along with six faculty members, it was time for action, he said. "This time is different."
By sending Mr. Biden to Connecticut to push for tougher gun laws, the White House continues to press the issue even as the National Rifle Association has vowed to fight any new laws.
Mr. Biden, speaking Tuesday during a Facebook town hall event with Parents Magazine, went out of his way to reassure people that tougher gun laws does not mean that the government will take away all guns.
"No one's taking my shotgun," he said, adding that Americans who want a weapon for self-protection should "get a double-barreled shotgun."
Mr. Malloy also emphasized his commitment to the right to bear arms.
"I have a great deal of respect and belief in the Second Amendment," he said. "But with every right comes a responsibility."
He noted that while Connecticut had tougher gun laws than many other states, the type of weapon used at Sandy Hook, an AR-15 assault rifle, is legal to purchase in the state. In proposing a broader ban on assault weapons, which would define them as any semiautomatic weapon that has at least one military-style feature, that type of gun would no longer be allowed to be bought or sold in the state.
"The Sandy Hook tragedy happened in a school," Mr. Malloy said. "But we don't want the next time to happen in a movie theater, a shopping mall, a ballgame, or on a street corner in any one of Connecticut's cities or towns."