A coalition of gun control advocates on Thursday marked the anniversary of Connecticut’s sweeping 2013 firearm regulations and promised to support the re-election efforts of the public officials who helped to pass it.
During a state Capitol press conference Thursday, advocates commemorated the first anniversary of a law that has seen Connecticut ranked as having the second strictest gun laws in the nation. It was passed last year following the 2012 murders of 20 school children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Proponents praised the law as bipartisan and an appropriate response to the severity of the Newtown shooting. Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said his group has been raising money and plans to spend it this year on behalf of candidates who supported the bill.
“For their good work, many of our lawmakers have been severely attacked. But we’re here to pledge that we are with them,” Pinciaro said. “. . . The purpose will be to inform the public that important public safety reforms are being threatened because gun rights activists will not accept laws enacted by the will of the people and the constitutional process in Connecticut.”
The law has been deeply unpopular with the state’s gun rights groups, who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to challenge the constitutionality of the new restrictions in court. Second Amendment advocates also plan to mark the anniversary of the law on Saturday with a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.
Advocates on both sides of the issue claim that support for their causes have not dissipated in the year since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill into law. Both are launching social media campaigns and attempting to organize as the November election draws closer.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League contacted members in an email Thursday urging them to get involved and phone their lawmakers.
“Remind them that you are a voter, and this election you intend to vote [2nd Amendment]. After you get off the phone, I want you to follow up with emails. After you email, we want you to facebook and tweet them. We want you to be respectful, reasonable, and factual, but we want you to speak up!” the email read.
It’s unclear how big a role gun laws will play in the upcoming election cycle. During the Thursday press conference many supporters of the law rallied around the idea of preventing opponents from repealing it.
However, Senate President Donald Williams, who helped to pass the law, said he did not think a repeal of the law was very likely.
“Don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said, adding that polls suggest the legislation has overwhelming public support. “Those who oppose it may be loud, they may be vocal, but they are not the majority of people in the state of Connecticut, who support reasonable gun violence prevention legislation.”
Still, Williams said supporters should not take anything for granted. Malloy, on the other hand, said he thought a repeal of the law was “possible” and pointed to the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban. Some fear an influx of money from groups outside Connecticut being used to attack candidates who supported the legislation.
During the press conference, he seemed to invite an attack from the National Rifle Association.
“There are those who will say that this is not a gun problem but a mental health problem and today I want to challenge that. If it’s a mental health problem, NRA, why aren’t you advocating the [Affordable Care Act]?” he said. “. . . NRA, if you’re serious about making America safer, you would join Connecticut as we have had one of the most successful rollouts of the ACA.”
Pinciaro said he was concerned that “Ground Zero” in the national battle over gun control could be in Connecticut this year. He pointed to the successful effort last year in Colorado to recall two pro-gun control state senators. He said he expected national pro-gun control groups to come to the aid of state lawmakers if their re-election seemed in jeopardy.
Although the bill was passed with bipartisan support, it is unclear how bipartisan re-election aid from gun control groups will be this year. All the lawmakers standing at the press conference on Thursday were Democrats, and when asked, Pinciaro said he would support Malloy over Sen. John McKinney, a Republican leader who helped negotiate and pass the bill.
“We would not work against any Republican who voted ‘yes’ for it,” he said, when asked. “We haven’t decided exactly what campaigns we’re going to support yet, we’re still doing our research.”
Asked if he was aware of any Republicans who supported the bill being targeted by primary opponents, Pinciaro said, “not specifically, to the degree I would call ‘targeting’ yet.”
Williams cautioned not to read too far into the absence of Republicans at the press conference.
“This is not necessarily as much in the comfort zone of Republican legislators as it is for Democrats,” he said.