As tensions run high in the gubernatorial debates leading up to the Nov. 4 election, Connecticut residents are raising questions about the candidates’ proposals for gun control.
Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley have disputed gun control in most of their public debates. Malloy, who signed into law one of the strictest gun control measures in the nation in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has called for even stricter restrictions on carry laws during his campaign. Foley, on the other hand, contends that Malloy’s policies restrict the rights of gun owners and that he is ready to sign a repeal of those laws. While supporters of each candidate claim that significant changes to gun control laws are inevitable come the next term, some say that drastic change is unlikely.
“Unless there’s an unanticipated Republican sweep, you’ll have a Democratic general assembly that will not make any significant changes,” said Ronald Schurin, political science professor at the University of Connecticut.
Schurin said that if Foley wins, the only changes that would occur are minor alterations that would loosen the state’s laws on reporting stolen weapons.
But others predict more extreme changes for Connecticut’s gun laws in the event of a Republican win. Executive Director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence Ron Pinciaro said that based on the candidates’ comments in the debates, gun laws would loosen dramatically if Foley wins.
“[Foley] said that he would be opposed to any legislation that restricts the rights of gun owners,” Pinciaro said. “I’ve never seen a gun violence proposal that wasn’t seen as restricting the rights of gun owners.”
Rich Burgess, president of Connecticut Carry — an organization that advocates for looser gun control laws — predicted a different future for the state’s gun laws.
Burgess said in an email that if Malloy were to win, Connecticut would see more laws passed that place more restrictions on gun ownership.
“Connecticut’s gun laws will get significantly worse if Governor Malloy is allowed to continue his anti-rights reign,” Burgess said. “Neither [Foley nor independent candidate Joe Visconti] are what we consider to be ‘pro-rights,’ they are just better than Governor Malloy.”
Candidates and their supporters also pointed to Connecticut’s declining crime rates in the gun control debates. The 2014 Crime in Connecticut Report found and 8.6 percent drop in violent and property crimes last year.
Proponents of Malloy’s gun laws say that declining crime rates reflect the success of Malloy’s strict gun control policies. Those opposed to Malloy’s gun control strategy, however, say that the decline would continue even with looser carry laws. In fact, Burgess said more gun ownership is correlated with less crime, adding that violent crime rates have been decreasing at the same time that some states have implemented looser carry laws. The correlation between decreasing crime in Connecticut and stricter regulations does not imply causation, he added.
Schurin said that while the states’ gun laws have some impact declining crime rates in Connecticut, the decrease is due to a “constellation of factors,” such as improved policing.
Leaders in New Haven also said that the debate on gun control has serious implications for crime in the Elm City.
Gun control legislation touches on many issues regarding urban crime, said New Haven’s Democratic Party Town Chair Vincent Mauro. He added that while Foley has said he would repeal Connecticut’s strict carry laws, he still has not presented a clear plan to reduce crime in urban areas like New Haven.
Mauro said that lowering crime in the Elm City could be achieved through a number of means outside of gun control, namely providing services to help former prisoners adapt to life outside of prison after they serve their sentences — something that Malloy has supported.
The results from a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday reveal that voter support for Foley and Malloy is tied at 43 to 43 percent.