HARTFORD — Connecticut politicians who may be challenged in this year’s election for supporting stricter weapons laws in the wake of the Newtown school massacre received a pledge of support Thursday from gun control advocates.
The state’s largest gun control group said it plans to create a super PAC to raise money to help politicians who supported last year’s gun law changes.
“Many of our lawmakers are being severely attacked, but we are here to pledge that we are with them,” said Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signing the gun control legislation, which greatly expanded the state’s assault weapons ban and barred the possession and sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines, among other measures. The wide-ranging bipartisan law was passed following the Sandy Hook shooting and attracted national attention, prompting speculation that pro-gun advocates will pour money into Connecticut’s elections, including the governor’s race.
Besides CAGV’s super PAC, various groups are planning other activities, including a billboard and social media campaign. All legislative and statewide offices, as well as the five U.S. House of Representatives seats, are up for grabs in this year’s election.
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said he welcomed assistance from the gun control advocates, he believes any efforts by outside groups to campaign against pro-gun control candidates won’t work.
“The people of Connecticut I think can see through this kind of a transparent effort to distort the facts and use viscous attacks to take down our democracy,” Williams said.
The efforts by gun control advocates come as the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a gun rights organization, plans to hold a rally on Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of the bill’s signing. CCDL still hopes to see the law overturned or repealed.
“We intend to gather in a peaceful manner and we are as determined as ever to see this law overturned in in federal court, or repealed by the state legislature one day,” said CCDL President Scott Wilson. “We can assure our elected officials that we do not accept this unjust law as a permanent fixture in our lives.”
Despite several repeal bills proposed this session, leaders of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly did not raise those bills for consideration. There is a chance that some of the proposals could be offered as amendments to other bills before the legislative session adjourns May 7.
While Williams said he does not expect Connecticut’s gun restrictions will be repealed, Malloy acknowledged there’s always a possibility, pointing to changes in federal gun control laws over the years.
As of Thursday, Malloy’s office said the state has received 50,242 assault weapon certifications from gun owners who were allowed to keep their now-banned weapons so long as they registered with the state. Also, 38,209 gun owners have filed declarations listing the number of type of large-capacity magazines they own.
Additionally, Malloy said the new law, which includes new background check requirements, prevented 72 felons from purchasing guns. Since the law’s passage, Malloy said 54 people with mental illness or addiction problems and 15 people with existing restraining orders were also denied the ability to buy a gun.