HARTFORD -- Flanked by family members of Newtown massacre victims and the legislative leaders who spent three months trying to respond to their tragedy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a sweeping gun-control bill Thursday whose major provisions, including a strengthened assault weapons ban, took effect with the stroke of his pen.

The bill, signed at a packed ceremony at the Capitol, had received final legislative approval shortly before 2:30 a.m. in the House, some eight hours after the Senate approved it.

Legislative leaders who negotiated the bipartisan compromise bill said it was their toughest-in-the-nation response to the shooting deaths of 20 first-graders and six women on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

"This is a profoundly emotional day, I think, for everyone in this room and everyone watching what is transpiring today in the state of Connecticut," Malloy said before signing the bill, bit by bit, with a succession of pens then given to Newtown family members and lawmakers.

"I hope that this is an example to the rest of the nation -- certainly to our leaders in Washington, who seem so deeply divided about an issue such as universal background checks, where the country is not divided itself," he said. "When 92 percent of Americans agree that every gun sale should be subject to a background check" -- as provided in the new Connecticut law, but not in federal law -- "there's no excuse for representatives or senators who don't come to the assistance of those that they are elected to represent."

In Maryland, meanwhile, a strengthened gun bill requiring handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police awaited the governor's signature. Connecticut, New York New Jersey, Hawaii and Massachusetts have a similar requirement.-- With AP

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