Governor to Ban Gun Sales to People on Government Watch Lists

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy plans to sign the first executive order in the nation to ban the sales of guns to people on federal government watch lists.

"We intend to prevent, by executive order through my powers as governor, those on government watch lists from obtaining a permit to purchase a firearm in Connecticut," the Democratic governor said in a news conference Thursday.

Anyone who wishes to buy a gun in Connecticut must first apply for a permit from a public safety agency, then a thorough background check is conducted, Malloy said.

"The executive order would add an additional level of protection and require those who apply for a permit to be screened against government watch lists," Malloy said during the news conference.

It's not clear how many people this executive order would cover, but the governor said he has reason to believe people living in the state are on watch lists and the state should be in a position to deny permits to those individuals.

The state created some of the strictest gun laws in the country after 20 students and six educators were killed in a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Those laws banned assault weapons in Connecticut.

The governor is seeking access to some federal watch lists and his executive order would prevent anyone on them from buying a handgun, shotgun, rifle or ammunition in the state.

People who are denied would have the option to appeal.

"I have been in touch with the White House directly on this matter and we are working with federal authorities to gain access to their lists for this purpose," Malloy said.

He said his administration is working with the federal government to determine the appropriate lists to be included — from the no-fly list to a combination of those who should not have weapons. 

The governor said the executive order will take effect as soon as he receives federal approval to obtain the lists.

"If approved, we will sign an executive order. We will take action. Like all Americans, I've been horrified by the recent terrorist attacks in California and Paris. This should be a wake-up call for all of us. This is a moment to seize here in America, and today, I am here to say in Connecticut, we are seizing this moment," Malloy said.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League is opposed to the plan.

"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. While we are all concerned about terrorism, this approach is very un-American and shameful,” CCDL President Scott Wilson said in a statement.

"Governor Malloy has gone even further into the deep end than ever before. His planning on denying purchases and likely seizing firearms of individuals are on a list that have not been charged or convicted of any wrongdoing is antithetical to every value that this country was founded on. There are millions of people on these lists, many who are not criminals or terrorists, and do not belong on it," Wilson added.      

Malloy also bashed federal Republican lawmakers over gun policies and urged Congress to act and follow the state's example.

"If Congress will not act, we in the states will," he said.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat who represents District 5 of Connecticut is a cosponsor of H.R. 1076, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, which Republican U.S. Rep Peter King, of New York, sponsored. That legislation has been blocked from a vote six times in the House of Representatives, according to Malloy.

Esty sais she applauded Malloy's decision to take action.

“Governor Malloy is taking a commonsense step to help keep Connecticut families safe from suspected terrorists and potential terrorist attacks,” Esty said in a statement. “While in the House, we have been denied a vote on a bipartisan bill to close this dangerous loophole, I am proud to see our state take action into its own hands. We must close this loophole as a country so that terrorists cannot just walk into a gun store and use our laws against us.”

U.S. Rep. John Larson, a Democrat representing the state's First District, commended Malloy for his plan.

“I commend Governor Malloy for taking executive action where Congress has failed to do the same. Keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists is just common sense, and it is crucial to keeping our communities safe,” Larson said in an e-mailed statement.

He also as used the news conference as a vehicle for bashing the GOP on refusing to allow refugees who are fleeing war-torn countries to seek asylum in the United States.

"Many Republicans nationally seem to be in favor of allowing those on watch lists to purchase guns, but they are equally willing to deny women, children and families fleeing a war-torn country entry into the United States because of a perceived danger," he said.

As governors in several states announced they would not accept refugees in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, Malloy publicly said Connecticut would accept them, then welcomed a Syrian family of three diverted from Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence said his state would halt resettlement activities.

"The danger of having people on watch lists buying guns in our country is far greater than any of the risks that they're talking about," Malloy said.

He went on to bash the NRA and its supporters, saying they have stood in the way of "sensible gun violence prevention" measures that will save lives because of "advocacy rooted in twisted, irrational and backward logic."

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