Democratic Governors Form 'States for Gun Safety' Group
By Russell Blair
Amid federal inaction on gun control, the Democratic governors of Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey have formed a multi-state coalition to better share information and pool resources to combat gun violence.
"We have waited for Washington to do something and of course that never quite happened," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters on a conference call Thursday. "We can't wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws. Let's take it to the next step. Let's work across our borders."
The states will collaborate on several fronts, including creating a multi-state task force to trace and intercept illegal guns and establishing a regional gun violence research consortium through their public colleges and universities.
There will also be an effort to share information across state lines that isn't readily available in the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun sales.
Connecticut has a law barring people subject to a temporary restraining order from buying guns, but those people can easily travel to another state and purchase a firearm, Malloy said.
Similarly, New York State has a database of tens of thousands of people deemed too mentally unstable to carry firearms but those names are not part of the federal database that other states would use to see if they are eligible to buy a gun.
"We're neighbors, and a lot of our folks go to one another's states to make other types of purchases," Malloy said. "The probability is they also go across our borders to make gun purchases."
The governors said the coalition, which is being called States for Gun Safety, was in the works before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last week but the 17 deaths there prompted them to step up their efforts.
"In light of that awful tragedy we felt we wanted to accelerate," said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
Murphy noted how Democratic governors similarly banded together to form the United States Climate Alliance, agreeing to adhere to the terms of the Paris climate agreement despite President Donald Trump's move to withdraw the U.S. from the deal.
Last month, Malloy, Murphy and Cuomo announced they were preparing a federal lawsuit over the sweeping tax reform legislation that was enacted by Congress last year on the basis that it treated their states unfairly by limiting the deduction for state and local taxes.
"I think you could argue with great credibility and passion that states and governors will have never mattered more in the absence of federal action or the unwinding of federal action," Murphy said.
Meanwhile, Trump Thursday signaled his strongest support for new gun laws since taking office. In a tweet he said he would be "strongly pushing" comprehensive background checks, with an emphasis on mental health, and supported raising the age to buy rifles to 21 and banning so-called "bump stocks," which allow semi-automatic guns to fire at near-automatic speeds. But he provided no further details.
Democrats, including Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the Senate's strongest supporters of stricter gun laws, were wary.
"Let's be clear what 'comprehensive background checks' means -- subjecting all commercial sales (gun stores/shows, online sales) to checks," Murphy wrote in a tweet. "If that's what you mean, I'm listening."
(c)2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)