HARTFORD, CT — Absent federal action on guns, the governors of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island said they’re going to improve their data sharing in order to limit the number of firearms getting into the wrong hands.
“We can’t wait for the federal government to act,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday during a conference call with reporters.
The governors whose states are connected by Interstate 95 said the guns make their way up from the Southern states along what’s been dubbed the “Iron Pipeline.” They are purchased in southern states with weaker gun laws and brought back to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The new agreement the four states signed would increase the amount of data they share.
It comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s meeting with survivors of gun violence and a CNN town hall in Florida— the scene of the most recent school shooting that left 17 dead.
“This is both coordinating, but also deepening,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Deepening in intelligence and information sharing. Deepening in the tracing and intercepting of illegal guns. Deepening in the research efforts that hopefully can make that smart gun technology Gov. Cuomo referred to.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state maintains a database regarding mental health that was part of the SAFE Act passed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook massacre and this agreement gives other states access to it. He said all the databases that are not part of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and are operated by states could be shared under this agreement.
He said the NICS system is very limited.
Malloy said in Connecticut they could share information with the other states about individuals in Connecticut with protective orders against them that would prohibit them from continuing to possess guns.
The agreement inked Thursday would also create a joint task force to trace and intercept illegal guns.
The governors said the current lack of information-sharing between the four states has prevented state law enforcement agencies from knowing if an individual has attempted to purchase or permit a weapon in a neighboring state. The agreement, in accordance with federal and state privacy protections, will provide state law enforcement agencies with details on the firearm purchase or permit denials for those who are disqualified.
Despite the passage of gun safety laws restricting the purchase and carry of firearms across the four states, the lack of federal regulations preventing individuals from purchasing guns in other states and transporting them across borders has undermined state legislation.
The four state fusion centers that will jointly share information under this agreement are the Connecticut Intelligence Center, the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, the New York State Intelligence Center, and the Rhode Island State Fusion Center.
The four states will each designate an institution of higher education to partner with the others and create the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium comprised of dedicated public health, social welfare, public policy, and criminal justice experts who will share and examine data to better inform policymakers nationwide. This consortium will fill the void left by the federal government’s 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence which has obstructed research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said he’s interested in learning more about the agreement and the impact it might have on law abiding gun owners.
“We all oppose gun violence and wish to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, there is no question about that,” Wilson said. “So we are eager to see more details of this plan, but we are concerned of the impact it might have on the law abiding gun owners of Connecticut.”
He said it would be better for the states to create reciprocity agreements so that those who carry permits in one of those states can carry in the other states.
“We believe that gun violence may be reduced further with this approach,” Wilson said. “However, we expect no such concession from the governor of this state.”
This year there have been several pieces of legislation raised in Connecticut to address gun safety and others that could be considered pro-Second Amendment.
The Judiciary Committee voted this week to raise the concept of lawfully carrying firearms in state parks and another concerning lifetime ammunition permits.
Malloy has also proposed legislation banning bump stocks.
And Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman William Tong, D-Stamford, said he would raise legislation that seeks to end access to so-call “ghost guns,” which can be purchased legally and then modified into guns like the ones banned under Connecticut’s 2013 law.
The Judiciary Committee has until Friday to raise the concepts they want to be drafted into legislation.
It’s doubtful there would be any legislation introduced to rollback the laws passed in 2013.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, told reporters Wednesday that there’s no need for civilians to have access to AR-15s.
“I still maintain there is no need for automatic weapons in civilian use, and you’re talking to somebody who was trained with an M-16 and fired numerous times,” Aresimowicz said.