Urging reporters to focus on his policy rather than the legislative process, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended both the timing and substance of his gun control proposals at a press conference outside his office Thursday.
Malloy arrived back in Hartford following a gun violence press conference featuring U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Danbury. He was immediately questioned about the timing of the gun control measures he had unveiled Thursday morning prior to Biden’s visit.
Earlier Thursday, Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said he thought it was clear that on the eve of the vice president’s visit that Malloy would offer up his own proposals on gun control.
“It is clear he wants the headline to read ‘Malloy proposes gun control’ ahead of the vice president’s visit to Connecticut,” Labriola said, accusing the governor of “grandstanding.”
But later at a 4 p.m. news conference, the governor said it had been 69 days since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and it was time to speak to gun violence in greater detail. He said the proposals were the result of a lot of work by his office and asked reporters to avoid getting distracted by the process of policymaking over the specifics of what he was proposing.
“I’m loath to tell you how to do your job, but when people talk about [process], why don’t you ask them about the specifics,” he said.
Malloy asked whether his critics support universal background checks for gun purchases or limiting access to assault rifles, all things he proposed Thursday.
“To play this game — [of] which I don’t have firsthand knowledge but you’re telling me some people are playing — is right out of the [National Rifle Association’s] playbook,” he said.
Asked if he felt that it was counter productive to inject his own proposals into the discussion before the legislature had a chance to arrive at their own, the governor said “no,” and again urged that someone ask his critics about their specific positions. Again, he referenced the NRA.
“If you don’t do that, than people get to play the NRA game, which is to confuse, to befuddle, to take people off the issue, to make it impossible or less likely that progress is made,” he said.
“Listen, get it out of your systems. Write all the things you want about the process, but then eventually ask the questions,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Senate Republican leader John McKinney, who co-sponsored legislation to ban high capacity magazines and voted for the state’s current assault weapons ban, said most of the things Malloy proposed were already being considered by the legislature.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey called Malloy a strong advocate for his positions but also referenced the continuing work of the legislature’s bipartisan gun violence committees.
“Everyone agrees we must take comprehensive action this session to help reduce gun violence and better protect our children, and that is what we are going to do,” Sharkey said in a statement.
Some lawmakers said Thursday they were looking to finish their own work on gun violence before they started to consider the governor’s proposals.
Rep. Linda Orange, a Democratic member of the Public Safety Committee and chairwoman of the Sportsmen’s Caucus, said she saw no reason for the legislature to put their deliberations on hold to address Malloy’s recommendations.
“I’m certainly in favor of continuing our bipartisan effort,” she said. “He’s entitled to his bill and we’re entitled to ours, I suppose.”
Orange said the work being conducted by the bipartisan legislative Super Committee shows the state and the nation that the Connecticut is taking its time and putting forward a carefully thought out response to the shooting.
“People have put a lot of work and effort into these three task forces,” she said. “It’s a bipartisan effort. You can’t get better than that.”
Asked if the legislature should pass Malloy’s proposals if the work of the legislative committee does not include all of his recommendations, Orange said that was a conversation for another day.
“One step at a time is the best way to approach a situation like this. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she said.
Orange said the task force Malloy created has yet to reach its deadline for recommendations.
“Why do we all the sudden have to push something out now when we haven’t even reached deadlines yet?” she asked.
But Sen. Ed Meyer, a Democrat from Guilford who has proposed aggressive gun control measures, disagreed, saying it was about time the legislature took action. He said the legislative subcommittees were initially tasked with turning over recommendations by Feb. 15. That deadline has come and gone already, he said.
“I thought it was a fair kick in the pants from the governor to the legislature,” Meyer said. “He laid out his own proposals and most of them I agree with.”
Click here to read more about the governor’s proposal, which includes a ban on any semi-automatic rifle with one or more military-style features, and would require permitting of all firearms.