Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Christine Stuart photo)

Connecticut’s gun laws, many enacted following the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, are among the toughest in the nation and those laws are helping decrease gun violence in the state, according to a report released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress (CAP).

The report found a strong correlation between the strength of state gun laws and levels of gun violence.

The report, which analyzes 10 specific indicators of gun violence in all 50 states, found that the 10 states with the weakest gun laws collectively have levels of gun violence that are more than three times higher than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws — one of which is Connecticut.

CAP also published an interactive map that links to state-specific fact sheets providing detailed information about gun violence in each state.

During a conference call announcing the results of the report, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he was proud that Connecticut has been a “national leader in gun law legislation since we responded after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook.”

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, when a 20-year-old gunman fatally shot 20 first graders, as well as six adult staff members.

After the Sandy Hook massacre Connecticut lawmakers passed several gun control measures, including requiring background checks for private guns sales and an assault weapons ban that includes more than 100 gun models. Additionally, millions of dollars was allocated for expanded school safety, stricter eligibility requirements were passed for ammunition sales, and a first-of-its-kind in the nation registry of dangerous offenders was enacted.

“The reality is if you have good gun laws, people will be safer,” Malloy said.

Malloy noted that this past year, the General Assembly passed legislation that requires the subject of a temporary restraining order to turn over their firearm to law enforcement, until there’s a court hearing to determine if the temporary restraining order should be dismissed or become permanent.

“We are routinely ranked as having the first or second best gun laws in the nation,” Malloy said, though he added, “It shouldn’t have taken three years to pass the temporary restraining order bill. It should have been done in year one.”

Asked what new, if any, gun laws he planned to push in the upcoming General Assembly session, he said he “didn’t know yet”  whether there would be any new gun control initiatives in 2017.

The Connecticut governor did caution, however, that Connecticut still has more than its share of gun violence problems — including some it can’t control.

“I like to call Interstate 95 loophole highway,” Malloy said, referring to the fact that many neighboring states don’t have tough gun purchasing laws, “so a lot of guns show up in our state that haven’t been purchased here.”

The CAP report cites a 2013 study by a group of public health researchers that found states with stronger gun laws had lower rates of gun deaths than states with weaker gun laws. It also cites a 2011 study that drew a similar conclusion finding that firearm-related deaths were significantly lower in states that had enacted laws to ban assault weapons, require trigger locks, and mandate safe storage of guns.

Two studies led by Daniel Webster at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that when Connecticut began requiring a background check for a handgun purchase, “gun-related homicides in the state fell 40 percent.”

The same two studies found that when Missouri eliminated the background check requirement, gun homicides increased 26 percent.

“Research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun violence prevention advocacy group, found that states that require universal background checks for all handgun sales have significantly lower rates of intimate partner gun homicides of women, law enforcement officers killed by handguns, and gun-related suicides,” the report continues.

Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, disputed the report and said the opposite is true.

“States that have loosened restrictions over their citizens (such as right to carry type laws) have seen the biggest drop in crime overall,” Wilson said. “And the sad fact is that the majority of gun related crime is ‘criminal on criminal’ based over drug turf or the like. Violent criminals simply put, will not follow gun laws. They will obtain them illegally, and use them illegally.”

He said Hartford has some of the highest levels of gun violence when compared to other similar sized cities. Last year, Hartford had one of the highest homicide rates in New England with 32 homicides, the vast majority involving to guns. This year there have only been 12 gun-related homicides, according to Hartford Police.

“How does our governor or the so-called Center for American Progress square their claims that stricter gun laws have anything to do with gun violence reduction?” Wilson said.

Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Guns and Crime Policy at CAP, said the authors revisited CAP’s 2013 analysis with a revised methodology, some new categories of gun violence, and updated state grades from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The report provides a state ranking across 10 key indicators of gun violence, then uses the rankings to calculate an overall Gun Violence Index score for each state. Using this score, the authors assessed the correlation between the rate of overall gun violence in the state and the relative strength or weakness of each state’s gun laws.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin had the lowest rates of gun violence and Oklahoma, Montana, Arizona, Wyoming, South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Alaska, and Louisiana had the highest rates.

“Once again, CAP finds a strong and significant link between weak gun laws and high rates of gun violence,” the report states.