It’s been nearly eight months since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked White House officials for access to federal “watch lists” like the no-fly list, so that Connecticut could prohibit people on those lists from purchasing firearms.
But as of Monday, no such order has been signed and it’s unclear as to why the federal government has been withholding the data.
In December, Malloy told reporters that as soon as the U.S. Department of Justice gives him the green light he wants to be able to sign an executive order that would require those who apply for a firearm permit to be checked against government watch lists
“The White House counsel’s office is still reviewing the request and there has been no official decision,” Devon Puglia, Malloy’s spokesman, said Monday.
Malloy proposed the idea in December after the U.S. Senate failed to pass a measure that would have allowed the attorney general to block the sale or transfer of a gun or explosive to a suspected or known terrorist, if the individual is believed to be planning to use the weapons in an act of terrorism.
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy supported the measure, and spoke about it Monday at a press conference following Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando.
“The default position should be that if you’re on the terrorist watch list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun, and if you are on that list mistakenly you can get your name off,” Murphy said, adding that he believes that if the legislation that he co-sponsored with Blumenthal had been passed, “it may have made this tragedy much less likely.”
On Sunday, the latest in a long line of mass shooting incidents, 29-year-old Florida resident Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 in what’s being called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
According to news reports, in 2013 Mateen was interviewed twice by federal agents after co-workers reported that he made “inflammatory” comments about radical Islamic propaganda. The following year the FBI reportedly looked at him again because of ties with an American who traveled to the Middle East to become a suicide bomber.
Mateen was temporarily placed on the terrorist watch list, and he later legally purchased his firearms in the weeks leading up to the shooting.
On Monday, members of Connecticut’s delegation to Washington were echoing Malloy’s previous comments about access to firearms for people who have come under law enforcement scrutiny. Malloy has said that “if you cannot fly due to being on a government watch list, you should not be able to purchase a firearm while on that watch list as well.”
There are an estimated 16,000 individuals on the no-fly list, which is one of the smallest of the government watch lists. In December, Malloy said that he was asking for access to a broad range of watch lists that include suspected terrorists.
According to a Government Accountability Office report, between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded.
But Connecticut civil liberty groups and Second Amendment supporters argue that the “watch lists” are often wrong.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, has said that the criteria for ending up on the terror list are unclear and vague.
“Governor Malloy is planning to take what is, in our view, unconstitutional executive action that would prohibit firearms purchases and seize firearms of individuals who have not been indicted or convicted for any crime,” Wilson said back in December. “While we are all concerned about terrorism, this approach is very un-American and shameful.”
He said his group will not rule out legal action if Malloy moves forward with an executive order.
Blumenthal said that while banning the future sale of assault weapons is central to the effort to reduce mass shootings, he said it’s not the only thing that needs to be done.
“The point here is there’s no panacea. There’s no one solution. This problem has very different layers,” Blumenthal said. “Orlando was a perfect storm of pernicious bigotry, an insidious ideological bent . . . a weapon of mass destruction, and an individual who was very likely afflicted with mental illness. All of it together, and there’s no clear one solution to the problem of gun violence in America. It has to be a combination of measures. And automatic handguns present a threat, which is why background checks, a ban on illegal trafficking, straw purchases, a mental health initiative, gun safety — these kinds of steps can make a difference and that is not to say even with everything, if it’s all done, that violence will be prevented completely. But we can save lives.”