Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called Thursday for a number of specific changes to the state’s firearm regulations. The move pre-empted any consensus recommendations from the legislature’s bipartisan Super Committee and the task force he created, but which was not working fast enough, according to the governor.
The governor offered sharp criticisms for the pace of legislative action earlier this week but toned down his rhetoric in a Thursday morning press release. Still, he urged quick action by lawmakers to pass his stricter gun proposals.
“Despite the strong leadership and goodwill in Connecticut’s House and Senate, we run a risk of letting this critical moment in history pass us by,” he said Thursday at a forum on gun violence in Danbury. “None of us want that to happen, and none of us should let it happen.”
Malloy’s proposals contain many of the ideas he has referred to as “common sense” in the days since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The governor has recommended banning ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, strengthening the state’s assault weapons prohibition, and making background checks universal for anyone purchasing a firearm.
“I am proposing that we change the definition of assault weapon to any semiautomatic that has at least one military characteristic, and ban the sale of these weapons in our state,” Malloy said. Currently a weapon must have two characteristics of a military firearm to be considered an assault weapon.
Under Malloy’s redefined assault weapons ban, the AR-15 would be prohibited from further sale. The AR-15 is the popular semi-automatic rifle used by the shooter in the mass murder at Sandy Hook.
People who purchased the weapon before the law is enacted would be permitted to keep it, but would be required to register it with State Police to get a certificate of possession. If they choose to sell the gun it would need to be sold to a licensed firearms dealer or out of state.
Malloy’s proposal to make background checks universal also expands the number of crimes that would make someone ineligible to purchase a gun. It would include any violation of the law involving a firearm or the use or threat of force. But it also would include non-violent crimes like operating a car under the influence or possession of a controlled substance within the last five years. Gun owners convicted of those crimes would have their firearms revoked.
The governor also recommended increasing enforcement of the gun regulations already on the books in Connecticut, as well as promoting safer weapon storage by gun owners.
“We need to expand laws around gun storage so that these weapons don’t fall into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” he said. “Gun owners have a responsibility to store their weapons safely, and should be held accountable if a person is injured because of an improperly stored weapon.”
Malloy’s recent call for immediate action on gun control measures represents a departure from his approach when he commissioned his post-Newtown task force. In his charge to the Sandy Hook Commission, the governor told the group he would attempt to shield them from pressure to rush their recommendations.
“I’m not going to put you under any pressure. In fact, I’ll protect you from that pressure, should that be required. On the other hand, I think you all need to be mindful that the legislature is in session and some of the things you will undoubtedly recommend will require legislation,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said he did not know why Malloy had changed his approach to gun control proposals.
“I could speculate. He’s got the vice president in town. He doesn’t want to be seen as being upstaged by other governors like [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo . . . Does he want to deflect attention away from a horrible budget he’s proposed? Maybe all of that’s true,” he said.
Whatever the governor’s reasoning, McKinney said Malloy’s proposals are among the things the legislative task force is considering and did little to add to the process.
“We’re going to continue to work as a legislature in a bipartisan fashion. We’ll have a package. We’ll have a vote. And we’ll put it on his desk,” he said.