Republican Tom Foley

If anyone’s wondering why GOP lawmakers in this day and age are so reluctant to vote for what most Americans consider sensible gun control, consider what’s happening in this moderate state of ours, home of the Newtown gun massacre.

Down in North Haven, two local Republican legislators (state Sen. Leonard Fasano and state Rep. Dave Yaccarino) got hammered, harassed and heckled at a local meeting to explain their decision to vote for an expanded gun control law.

According to the New Haven Register’s report of the meeting, almost all the 100 folks who showed up for this week’s meeting were severely pissed that Connecticut would dare ban more assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazines (like the ones used by the Sandy Hook psycho to kill children).

Of course, Fasano and Yaccarino ought to take some comfort in the fact that polls continue to show that a high percentage of Americans believe those kinds of restrictions are right and rational. (Although some of that support seems to be slipping as the horror of Newtown slips further into the past.) And they should know by now that it’s the people who disagree with something that are the ones who usually make the most noise.

But then there’s the interesting attitude of the man who was their party’s last candidate for governor. In 2010, Tom Foley came within a hair’s breadth of beating Democrat Dannel Malloy, and he’s determined to stage a rematch next year.

Foley has been all over top legislative Republicans like state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. for getting behind the bipartisan gun control bill that’s now Connecticut law.

Of course, McKinney and Cafero are both looking to grab the Republican gubernatorial nomination away from Foley next year. So it makes some political sense for Foley to find issues to beat them over the head with, and the GOP nomination process is usually dominated by the more conservative wing of Connecticut’s rather moderate GOP.

At the same time, Foley seems a tad reluctant to come out and directly oppose the new gun control law.

Here are Foley’s comments on Dennis House’s Face the State show last Sunday on WFSB-TV (courtesy of the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green):

“Would I have voted for this bill or not? I think the correct question is if I were governor what would my bill have looked like? It wouldn’t have looked like this bill.

… the debate should have been on this gun control measure on what would have prevented the tragedy from happening. It should have been limited to  what would have prevented this same thing from happening again.”

Make no mistake: Foley is a fairly moderate member of the GOP compared to the right-wing conservatives that dominate the national Republican Party and Congress.

What he’s trying to do is walk a political tightrope, with the hard-liners at one pole and Connecticut’s middle-of-the-road-to-liberal electorate on the other. It’s the same trick confronting all the Republicans in this state, and there’s simply no easy way to do it or explain it.