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Sunday, September 22 Politics

Lamont joins other Dem governors to push for congressional action on guns

WASHINGTON — Gov. Ned Lamont entered the national fray over guns, signing a letter Tuesday that calls on President Donald Trump to move forward on firearms legislation _ even though Trump is holding back on previous statements of support for expanded background checks and other gun-violence-prevention measures.

“Here in Connecticut, we’ve shown that we can pass smart, commonsense, and constitutional gun safety policies, but a large number of states continue to drag their feet on even the most basic measures that have close to near-universal support,” Lamont said in a statement.

Lamont argued that that even with tough gun laws, Connecticut is not immune to gun violence.

“When it comes to the prevention of gun violence, we are only as strong as the state with the weakest laws,” Lamont said.

Also signing the letter to Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and the governors of Oregon, California, Washington, Illinois, Delaware, Michigan. “Putting an end to the gun violence epidemic is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it is an American issue,” the letter said.

The Democratic-controlled House passed two gun-related bills, including universal background checks, in February. They have languished in the Republican-controlled Senate, with McConnell refusing to bring up any bill that Trump won’t sign into law.

For his part, Trump has vacillated between an initial declaration after the mass-shootings in El Paso and Dayton that he wants “very meaningful” and “intelligent” background checks, and then _ after conversations with National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre _ stating that “we already have strong background checks.”

Sen. Chris Murphy spoke to Trump on the phone shortly after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, and his staff went to meetings with counterparts at the White House, as well as staffers from the offices of Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who authored a background-check bill in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass-shooting that ultimately died in the Senate.

But late Monday, Murphy was virtually ready to throw in the towel.

“I think time is running short to find a compromise on background checks,” Murphy said. “As each day goes by, it seems more likely that we're going to find ourselves back in a familiar place where 90 percent of the Americans who want more background checks are going to be disappointed once again.”

Trump reversed himself in similar fashion last year, promising enhanced background checks after the mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., only to renege later.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll on Tuesday found 86 percent support “red flag” measures, similar to the one on the books in Connecticut since 1999 that allows law enforcement or friends and family to petition courts to have guns temporarily taken from troubled individuals. And 89 percent support universal background checks, which would be extended to private transactions including those online and at gun shows.

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Both won support from at least 8 in 10 Republicans, white evangelical Christians, and gun-owning households, the poll concluded.

But the National Rifle Association and the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry’s main trade group, continue to resist calls for expanded background checks and “Red Flag.”

Mark Oliva, NSSF spokesman, called the House-passed background-check bill a “non-starter.”

It would put an additional burden on federally licensed gun dealers who are already required to run background checks on their own sales. And, Oliva argued, it would lead to data collection that amounts to a “national gun registry,” which Congress specifically barred in 1986.

“The universal background check legislation that has been proposed is problematic at its foundation,” Oliva said. “It simply cannot work as it is written.”

He added that “Red Flag” could infringe on due-process rights of gun owners. “We’re talking about the denial of fundamental rights of Americans,” he said. “There has to be an avenue for an individual to confront and refute unfounded allegations.”

Democratic political leaders in Connecticut have praised the state’s risk-warrant law, pointing to research in 2017 showing the law’s effectiveness particularly in preventing suicide. The study concluded that for every eight to 10 warrants executed, one life was saved. Judges have issued more than 1,500 such warrants since 1999.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday deliberated on a national “Red Flag” law, as well as measures to bar guns from those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes and regulation of large-capacity ammunition magazines and feeding devices.

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