HARTFORD (AP) — The governors of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have created a coalition of like-minded states on gun control, promising to expand existing efforts to share information on illegal guns, and ultimately make progress on gun safety measures where they contend the federal government has faltered.
The four Democrats announced the formation of “States for Gun Safety” on Thursday. They plan to urge other governors to join the group at a National Governors Association meeting this weekend in Washington, D.C.
“We can’t wait for the federal government to act,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. “We have states with good intentions, with good laws. Let’s take it to the next level, let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our state, but advocate for better laws in our own region.”
The proposed coalition comes after a 19-year-old gunman, described as mentally troubled, killed 17 people with an AR-15 style assault rifle at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last week. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that shooting accelerated the governors’ idea to form the coalition, which has been in the works for about a year.
The governors said they will sign a memorandum of understanding that spells out three main areas where they plan to work together on gun issues. They want to create a cross-state task force of law enforcement officials that will trace and intercept illegal guns; form a regional gun violence research consortium; and step up intelligence and information sharing among the states.
Malloy said Connecticut has a law that prevents people with protective orders against them from continuing to possess or buy guns in the state. He said sharing that information with bordering states makes sense, considering residents travel to nearby states to make purchases.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state created a mental health database after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 26 children and adults were slain. It now contains the names of about 77,000 people who can’t purchase a gun in New York. He said that information could be shared with the other states, along with state data about arrest warrants and protective orders that typically aren’t included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.
“The federal system is very limited, right? That’s the essence of the problem, that the NICS federal background check is very limited,” said Cuomo, adding how officials in the four gun violence coalition states worry about weapons purchased in other states being brought across their borders.
NICS, which searches three nationally held databases, is overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. A message was left seeking comment with the FBI about the new coalition. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal law enforcement agency that handles the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, said it generally does not comment on state and local matters.
While the governors noted that all four states have some of the more restrictive gun laws in the country, there are proposals to enact additional measures following the recent mass shootings.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said it’s still legal in her state to buy a military-style weapon, carry concealed firearms into schools and state buildings, and purchase high-capacity magazines — something she hopes to work with state lawmakers to change.