Connecticut Second Amendment advocates are looking to replicate the success of a 2013 recall campaign in Colorado that ousted two state lawmakers. Its organizer appeared in Hartford on Monday to rally gun owners against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Members of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group that boasts nearly 16,000 members, gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Monday for a press conference calling on supporters to turn out to the polls during next week’s election.
Malloy’s defeat has been a priority for the group since the passage of sweeping gun control restrictions following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Scott Wilson, CCDL’s president, lamented that Connecticut’s constitution does not permit recall elections.
“What we do have is Election Day. Therefore, let us make Nov. 4, 2014, to be Connecticut’s recall election. Let’s finally end this bad chapter in our state’s history and remove Dan Malloy from office,” Wilson said.
CCDL brought in Timothy Knight, a gun rights activist who spearheaded the successful recall of two Colorado state senators who voted in favor of a gun control law.
“They said we were wasting our time, that it was impossible, that we were politically green — an undisciplined mob. But we beat the likes of Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, and even Bill Clinton made a robocall for little tiny state senate races in Colorado. But we won anyways,” Knight told the group.
His comments have some parallels in Connecticut’s gubernatorial race. A PAC founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has helped pay for $1.7 million in television ads supporting Malloy and former President Bill Clinton has twice appeared at rallies for the governor.
But here in Connecticut, the narrative gets more complicated than a simple effort to unseat an incumbent. The pro-Second Amendment vote may end up split between Tom Foley, a Republican running against Malloy for a second time, and Joe Visconti, a Republican-turned-unaffiliated candidate who collected thousands of signatures and petitioned his way onto the ballot.
CCDL has endorsed Foley as the candidate with the best chance of defeating Malloy. The two major party candidates have been essentially deadlocked in recent public polls. But Foley’s position on the gun control law has been vague. He has declined to call for a repeal of the bill, but has said he would sign a repeal in the unlikely event the state legislature passes one.
Meanwhile, Visconti, who is polling at 9 percent, has been more specific. He’s called for repealing provisions of last year’s gun control law, including its expanded assault-weapons clause and its ban on large-capacity magazines. Visconti collected many of the signatures that got him on the ballot from customers at local gun shops.
During a debate last week, Malloy encouraged gun rights advocates to support Visconti over Foley.
“Tom Foley has been dancing around issues for many months now. If you believe that I was wrong about guns, then this is the guy, Joe Visconti, that you should be voting for,” he said.
Knight and Sean Maloney, a gun rights activist from Ohio, declined to weigh in on who Connecticut Second Amendment supporters should choose.
“Our message isn’t picking and choosing between one candidate or the other because that’s not our fight. Our fight is to make sure that we, as patriots . . . at least make sure we do the right thing and exercise the rights that have been given to us,” Maloney said. “Tim and I are here to let you know that you have the ability to change and make a difference.”
Knight agreed they wanted gun owners to head to the polls.
“If you sit home, only tyranny wins and your voice is lost. So, whoever you vote for — just vote. Get out and vote. They’re your rights,” he said.
Wilson said he was confident gun owners would follow CCDL’s lead and cast ballots for Foley next week.
“They get it. They fully understand that [Visconti] can’t win and all he’s going to do is incite another Malloy” victory, Wilson said. “. . . I think a lot of the Second Amendment vote is looking to us as an organization for judgment guidelines and leadership.”
Wilson said CCDL members planned to be out in their communities, knocking on doors to support their endorsed candidates during the coming week.