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Gun laws get tough on firearm theft

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EAST WINDSOR, CT (WFSB) -

A gun shop where Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza's mother purchased the AR-15 Bushmaster used in the shootings in Newtown has lost its Federal Firearms License, according to police sources.

It's a store that has experienced a number of gun thefts in the past. Interestingly enough, a provision in Connecticut's new gun law gets tougher on people who steal them.

Sharon Hodge told Eyewitness News she cannot understand why the state would ever let her husband's son Jordan Marsh free, considering his mental health status, and his track record of stealing guns from Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor.

"We don't want him out," Hodge said.

Marsh was arrested by police in June 2011 for taking a dozen guns from the store.

Hodge said for that, he spent less than six months at Whiting Forensic Institute, which is a psychiatric facility located in Middletown.

"He came out with the ankle bracelet on," Hodge said. "That was on him for a little while and they took that off and he was able to come and go."

Hodge said she is concerned about the 26-year-old man, who has lived on and off with her South Windsor family the past few years, and her fears were validated last December.

In a week's time, Marsh was caught with a .50 caliber semiautomatic assault rifle, which is capable of penetrating cinder block, moments after he walked out of Riverview Gun Sales with it.

This incident occurred on the day after the Newtown tragedy where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

"The brazen act of stealing a firearm in and of itself was alarming," said East Windsor Det. Matthew Carl. "But then we found out it was this .50 caliber gun he was trying to get and it became very alarming to police."

Marsh told officers he wanted to bring the weapon to his job in Bloomfield, where he was angry at co-workers.

A few days before that, Marsh did get out of Riverview Gun Sales with an AR-15 assault rifle. The theft was discovered later by store surveillance, police said.

"They showed him on camera walking in to the gun store, and walking out with it," Hodge said.

Marsh is currently in custody for these two latest crimes.

Many, including his own family, told Eyewitness News the community was lucky something horrible didn't happen, while he was out.

And it's not the first time someone who stole guns from Riverview Gun Sales got back on the streets after serving relatively little time.

In 2007, Connecticut State Police discovered more than 600 weapons in the home of gun collector, Brian McClelland of Somers.

Most of the guns were legally owned, but more than 20 were stolen from Riverview Gun Sales, police said, after employees at Riverview Gun Sales tipped off investigators some of its inventory was missing and they believed McClelland was the culprit.

McClelland, who did not want to be interviewed for this story, was sentenced in 2008 to no prison time after pleading no contest to stealing just two weapons.

In both the cases of McClelland and Marsh, while the original charges of gun theft would have meant serious prison time, pleas were made, which reduced the effective sentences to basically zero time behind bars.

In the new gun bill just passed through the legislature though, lawmakers now have mandatory minimum sentences for gun thefts.

"It's a combination of enforcing laws that already exist," said Connecticut Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. "But, also increasing penalties for what we know is a serious crime."

"The concern about minimum mandatory sentences is that they do limit the discretion of sentencing judges,," said Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney. "But most of our sentences do carry a significant range."

The new legislation also raises the level of a gun theft offense from a class D to a class C felony, and includes mandatory minimum fines. It is effective on Oct. 1.

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