Conn. Governor Lambastes Senate After Gun Control Bill Fails

After the Sandy Hook shooting, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law some of the strictest gun controls in the country. He also urged the passage of new federal restrictions. Melissa Block talks with Malloy about his reaction to the Senate's failure to pass legislation this week.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The failure of gun control measures to get through Congress yesterday stands in sharp contrast to sweeping moves approved by some state legislatures after the Newtown shootings. Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut all passed broad expansions of gun control laws.

I'm joined now by the governor of Connecticut, Democrat Dannel Malloy. He joins me from the State Capitol Building in Hartford. Governor Malloy, welcome to the program.

GOVERNOR DANNEL MALLOY: Well, thank you. It's great to be with you.

BLOCK: And first, I'd like to get your reaction to the measure's defeat yesterday in the U.S. Senate.

MALLOY: Well, I mean, it's pretty appalling, if you think about it. We lose tens of thousands of our citizens per year to gun violence. We know that there are measures that would substantially lower that number and make our citizenry, including our schoolchildren, safer. And yet, the Senate of the United States can't get out of its own way to pass common sense proposals that 92 percent of the American people agree on. It's pretty appalling.

BLOCK: You said that the measures would make Americans safer. I want to ask you about the argument that was made by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, in voting no on a measure to expand background checks. He said: Criminals do not submit to background checks now. They will not submit to expanded background checks. What do you make of that?

MALLOY: Well, they don't submit to them because they don't have to. They buy them on the black market from people who have gone to shows or purchased otherwise online guns. Many of those folks are, in fact, criminals but they don't have to prove that they're not a criminal because we have loopholes that you can drive a truck through.

BLOCK: Governor Malloy, the new law in your state requires that people who own the assault weapons that are now banned in Connecticut and magazines that are banned, that hold more than 10 rounds, have to register them by next year. And I wonder if provisions like that might feed the fear that the federal government wants to register all guns and that that's where these background checks are leading.

MALLOY: Well, it is a registry. But since 1993, you've had to register a handgun. You've had to get training and a permit before you could purchase a handgun and no one's come after people's guns. I mean, it's a false argument cooked up by people who want to make sure that it's easy as possible to buy guns in the United States. I mean, that's what's behind this.

BLOCK: Governor Malloy, the gun industry has a long history of Connecticut. There are gun makers, including Colt and Sturm-Ruger, Mossberg, Stag Arms. And they're really upset by Congress comment that you made earlier this month on CNN, when you said: The gun industry wants to sell as many guns to as many people as possible, even if they're deranged, mentally ill or have a criminal background - they don't care. One gun maker has called that slanderous. And they say they've always supported aggressive enforcement of the laws.

MALLOY: Let's stop right there.

BLOCK: OK.

MALLOY: These organizations support the NRA. They write out gigantic checks to support the NRA. The NRA just stopped a common sense bill that would have limited who could buy guns, to make sure that criminals and insane people didn't buy guns. There's an old saying, the proof is in the pudding. When these companies come out and say that we want universal background checks, then perhaps I'll owe them an apology. But they're not going to do that. In fact, they created the NRA. They support the NRA. And the NRA is now the monster that prevents us from doing what 92 percent of the American people want us to do, and that is to make their children safer.

BLOCK: Well, if Congress didn't pass these measures now, so soon after the Newtown shooting and with many visits to Capitol Hill by these grieving families from Newtown, what would it take?

MALLOY: I think, you know, if there's a mass shooting in Iowa, you'll have asked Senator Grassley if he's changed position. If there's a mass shooting in Mississippi, or Alabama, you're going to have to ask those folks. Right now, Washington - the senators in Washington, many of them, are more fearful of the NRA than they are of 92 percent of the public. It's a pretty sad statement.

BLOCK: Well, strategically, if you want to get gun control measures passed, what do you do?

MALLOY: You do it state by state.

BLOCK: Governor Malloy, thanks for talking to us today.

MALLOY: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut. He spoke with us from Hartford.

And we've reached out today to Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and to the NRA, who were both mentioned by the governor. Both declined to speak with us.

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