Conn. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, left, and Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford and Darien, watch
Conn. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, left, and Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford and Darien, watch (Associated Press)

HARTFORD -- Connecticut's Senate on Wednesday approved sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large-capacity magazines, a response to last year's deadly Newtown elementary school shooting that would give the state some of the country's tightest gun control laws.

The December massacre of 26 people inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, which reignited a national debate on gun control, set the stage for changes in the state that may have been impossible elsewhere: The governor, who personally informed parents that their children had been killed that day, championed the cause, and legislative leaders, keenly aware of the attention on the state, struck a bipartisan agreement they want to serve as a national model.

"The tragedy in Newtown demands a powerful response, demands a response that transcends politics," said Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., a Democrat. "It is the strongest and most comprehensive bill in the country."

The bill passed the Senate in a bipartisan 26-10 vote following a respectful and at times somber six-hour debate Wednesday evening. The House of Representatives then debated the bill and was expected to vote later in the night. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign it into law.

The legislation adds more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban and creates what officials have called the nation's first dangerous weapon offender registry as well as eligibility rules for buying ammunition. Some parts of the bill would take effect immediately after Malloy's signature, including background checks for all firearms sales.

"There are pieces that are stronger in other states, but, in totality, this will be the strongest gun legislation passed in the United States," Betty Gallo, a lobbyist for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said of the Connecticut bill.

Gun rights advocates who greatly outnumbered gun control supporters in demonstrations held earlier in the day at the Capitol railed against the proposals as misguided and unconstitutional, occasionally chanting "No! No! No!" and "Read the bill!"

By the time the Senate voted, many of the gun rights advocates had gone home, leaving behind proponents of the bill who applauded when the tally was read.

Among the gun control advocates were Dan and Lauren Garrett, of Hamden, wearing green shirts in honor of the Sandy Hook victims. They said they hope lawmakers will build on the proposal.

"It's just the beginning of this bill. In six months from now, it's going to get stronger and stronger," Dan Garrett said. "I think they're watching us all over the country."