Gov. Dannel P. Malloy stepped up the war of words with the National Rifle Association on Thursday, saying that enshrining the NRA in Connecticut state statutes “is a betrayal of the children we lost at Sandy Hook.’’
The Democratic governor also blasted President Donald Trump, saying that the nation’s most prominent pro-gun group will “pull his chain and he’s back in his corner.’’
The role of the NRA in the state’s gun permitting process has come under increasing scrutiny this week. On Monday, Hartford Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Luke Bronin wrote to Malloy and other state leaders asking that they strip references to the NRA from state statutes.
Malloy said he agrees with Bronin, who served as his former legal counsel in the governor’s office.
“I think they don’t deserve to be in statutes,’’ Malloy said. “I don’t believe the NRA should be rewarded for its bad behavior.’’
As a Boy Scout in his younger days, Malloy says that he learned how to use a .22-caliber rifle and received an NRA certificate.
Under Connecticut law, applicants for a gun permit must complete a safety course offered by law enforcement or another public or private agency “utilizing instructors certified by the National Rife Association or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.’’
The debate over the NRA is largely symbolic, but it has the potential to fire up both liberal gun control advocates and Second Amendment absolutists. Two days after holding a press conference criticizing the NRA, Bronin sent an email to his supporters highlighting his stance.
NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said the organization’s detailed course is the “the best training available for anyone seeking to carry a concealed firearm for self-protection.” She said the two Democratic politicians are jeopardizing public safety in a quest to score political points.
Several Republican gubernatorial candidates agree.
“This is a political ploy, plain and simple,’’ Peter Lumaj, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, said in an email blitz to supporters. “These pathetic puppets for the ultra far left will do anything and say anything to distract from Connecticut’s flailing economy.”
Former Trumbull first selectman Tim Herbst, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, also blasted Malloy and Bronin.
“Gov. Malloy's vilification of responsible, law-abiding Connecticut gun owners is reprehensible," Herbst said Thursday. "This kind of over-the-top, divisive and hateful rhetoric does nothing to make our schools or communities more safe and serves only to fuel the partisan gridlock that prevents positive change."
Malloy has repeatedly characterized the NRA as a terrorist organization.
“I said they act like a terrorist organization, and they do,’’ Malloy told reporters at the state Capitol. “Terrorism is based on fear, and the NRA almost entirely markets itself on fear. … I want to be very clear that the reason we don’t have universal background checks in America is one organization, and it’s the NRA.’’
Malloy added, “There is no constitutional right for a person with mental illness to buy a gun. It doesn’t exist.’’
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