HARTFORD — A call to end references to the National Rifle Association in Connecticut’s statutes has ignited a sharp debate in the crowded 2018 governor’s race, with Republicans contending law-abiding gun owners are being maligned and Democrats arguing the state is legitimizing the gun-rights group.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who is exploring a possible run, this week picked a battle with the NRA by calling on the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to remove references to the gun-rights organization from state statutes, including one requiring residents seeking a pistol permit to complete a training course with NRA-certified instructors or the state’s public safety agency.
“I am concerned that Connecticut is inadvertently supporting this organization, by providing it recognition in state statute,” Bronin said.
Malloy, who is not seeking re-election, sided with Bronin, his former legal counsel, on Thursday. Malloy said the various references to the NRA in state law are “a betrayal of the children we lost at Sandy Hook.” Twenty first graders and six educators were killed in the 2012 mass shooting at the Newtown elementary school. Malloy said it should be left up to local law enforcement to decide whether they want NRA-instructors teaching the training courses needed to qualify for a pistol permit.
“I think we should set a standard and I think people should be held to that standard, but I don’t believe the NRA should be rewarded for its bad behavior,” Malloy said.
Earlier this week, Malloy drew the ire of some Republican candidates, as well as some NRA members, after he accused the NRA of acting like a terrorist organization.
“Terrorism is based on fear and the NRA almost entirely markets itself on fear,” Malloy said Thursday. But Holly Sullivan, a lifetime NRA member from Southbury, said she was offended personally by the governor’s comments.
“I think when they use language like terrorist, I think they need to understand the NRA is comprised of people like myself,” said the 36-year-old mother and human resources professional.
At least two Republican candidates for governor, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj, have accused Bronin and Malloy of trying to gin up their political base.
“I think he’s trying to steer the conversation strictly to guns because he doesn’t want to talk about Connecticut’s economy,” Herbst said of Malloy, who he called Bronin’s puppet master. “This kind of over-the-top, divisive, hateful rhetoric does nothing to make our schools more safe and only serves to fuel the partisan gridlock.”
Lumaj accused Malloy and Bronin of being “more interested in scoring cheap political points with their socialist base than addressing the safety of our children in schools or upholding the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Connecticut.”
NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said Connecticut is one of 15 states that recognize NRA training as a valid course of firearms instruction. She said there are 2,833 NRA-certified firearms instructors in the state. She called it an “absurd political stunt” to remove NRA trainers from the permitting process in Connecticut.