By Ebong Udoma
HARTFORD, Conn., April 3 (Reuters) - Connecticut state senators debated a bill on Wednesday to regulate guns that supporters describe as one of the toughest in the United States, as both chambers of the state's legislature prepared to vote on the measure later in the day.
The legislation was proposed in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead. The bill would require background checks for private gun sales and include a ban on the sale high-capacity ammunition clips of the kind used in the Newtown shooting.
"The tragedy in Newtown deserves a powerful response," said Senate President Donald Williams, a Democrat, during debate. He urged his colleagues to support the bill. "This bill contains the first in the nation dangerous weapons registry," he said.
Opponents say the bill infringes the rights to gun ownership protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"At the end of the day, making it more onerous on law-abiding citizens in our state is not the solution," Senator John Kissel, a Republican, said on Wednesday, drawing applause form gun rights advocates in the gallery.
Under the legislation, owners of existing clips capable of holding 10 or more bullets would be required to register them with the state. Owning an unregistered high-capacity clip would become a felony offense as of Jan. 1.
The shooter in the December attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School used high-capacity clips holding 30 bullets, which allowed him to shoot 154 rounds in less than five minutes.
The House and the Senate are expected to pass the measure. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats, with 99 Democrats and 52 Republicans in the House, and 22 Democrats and 14 Republicans in the Senate.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, had pushed for passage of the law and is expected to sign it.
The House, as of late afternoon, had not yet begun its debate.
The measure would also expand the number of weapons covered by Connecticut's assault weapons ban and establishes a $15 million fund to help schools improve security infrastructure. (Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Leslie Adler)