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Malloy Seeks Gun Ban For Those On Watch Lists, Group Outlines Violence Prevention Steps

This is a picture of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy
Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Conn.)

The Center for American Progress has outlined a series of non-legislative actions it says states can take to curb gun violence. Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy intends to sign an executive order to stop people on government watch lists from buying guns.Malloy says the action announced last week is in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris and California. Joining the left-leaning public policy group on a conference call Tuesday, the Democrat says his staff continues to work with the federal government to get access to the lists.

“This issue about people on the terrorism watch list who can be denied access to an airplane, but can buy guns in the United States and did so successfully 2,043 times between 2004 and 2014, that is a gigantic loophole which I’m prepared – upon agreement with The White House and the Justice Department – to sign an executive order that would add that as a background check to our system in Connecticut.”

Malloy says he is proud of the gun laws, considered among the toughest in the nation, Connecticut passed following the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six adults. Similarly, the Center for American Progress says it looked to President Obama’s actions in the wake of that attack as inspiration for a series of 28 steps it says state and local officeholders can take to prevent gun violence. Chelsea Parsons is the group’s vice president for guns and crime policy.

“While not every idea will work in every state or locality, the goal here was to provide a comprehensive view of what is possible via executive action at the state level,” said Parsons.

The ideas fall in the categories of stronger background checks and improved data collection along with enhanced community engagement, oversight of gun carrying and regulation of the gun industry. Some of the strategies include background checks for all private sales at gun shows on publically-owned property and divesting public funds from gun manufacturers that don’t adopt so-called best practices.

Scott Knight is a police chief in Minnesota and former chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Firearms Committee. He says the steps would create a safer and saner society.

“And without infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights, put up roadblocks to slow down the access to prohibited persons,” said Knight.

Malloy says his staff will review the Center’s strategies with the intention of implementing some of them. Still, he recognizes the power of the National Rifle Association.

“The NRA is driving gun policy on a national basis,” Malloy said. “Certainly in the Congress it’s difficult for them to get anything done. There is a whole bunch of reasons for that, not the least of which is every Republican who serves is afraid of a challenge from the right, and why would you stick your finger in the eye of the NRA? And so they choose not to.”

The NRA is wary of denying those on government watch lists the ability to buy a gun, citing inaccuracies that wrongfully place people on the lists. The group also contends such a ban would give terrorists a way to determine if their acts have drawn the government’s attention. Chief Knight says access to the no-fly list, for example, has never been widely available, adding that many agencies would need to come together to share that information and the criteria for being on the list.

“Part of the reason why I think it’s been delayed is that it’s been sort of a hard nut to crack, but now that it’s being discussed and the governor [Malloy] has taken that step – I’m very encouraged by it,” said Knight.

Connecticut’s chapter of the ACLU has expressed reservations about Malloy’s plan. The national organization has challenged the constitutionality of the no-fly list, saying the standards for inclusion are vague, shrouded in secrecy and prone to error.  Malloy says a rigorous appeal process would be put in place in Connecticut.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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