After the murder of 20 elementary school students and six adults in Newtown, Conn., Gov. Daniel Malloy was tasked with notifying families that they had lost their loved ones.
Since that shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Malloy has been reminded of that feeling over and over again. Most recently, he was reminded of it after a Feb. 14 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 high school students.
“I’m reminded of it every time there’s a large shooting in the United States where multiple deaths take place,” Malloy said in an interview with "Boston Public Radio" Wednesday. “Somebody had to tell them, and ... it fell to me to do it. What is it like? It’s life-changing.”
Since the shooting Sandy Hook, Malloy signed a sweeping set of gun restrictions into law, and today Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws — and some of the lowest rates of gun deaths — in the nation.
“In many states, you can’t rent a car until you’re 25, but other states will sell you an AR-15 at 16 or 17 or 18 years old. In many states you can’t buy liquor until you’re 21 years old, but we’ll give you something that you could kill all your classmates with,” Malloy said. “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
According to Malloy, until federal laws are enforced and new gun regulations like universal background checks are in place, this will continue to happen.
“These shootings are coming to your neighborhood,” Malloy said. “I said it after Sandy Hook, when I had a feeling that nothing would happen, at least on the federal side. You’re going to have a theater where people get shot, you’re going to have a restaurant where people get shot, you’re going to have a church where people get shot, you’re going to have a school where people get shot — no matter where you live in the United States, with the gun laws we have ... this is going to happen. This is going to happen again, and again, and again.”
Less than 24 hours after the Florida high school shooting, President Trump tweeted, "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"
But Trump’s actions contradict his words — in Feb. 2017, Trump signed a measure rescinding an Obama-era regulation aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of severely mentally ill people. If social security determined a recipient to be mentally unfit to handle his or her finances, that information would be transmitted to a criminal background check database.
“You could be ruled incompetent,” Malloy said, “but you could still buy a gun in America.”
Malloy was pessimistic about any major changes on the state level in Florida.
“I think that the NRA is extremely powerful, I think they’ve taken the time to buy the Florida legislature, the votes that they may not have otherwise have had, and we know how they do that,” Malloy said. “I don’t think the governor has any interest at all in good gun law legislation.”
Malloy added that states have the power to make themselves safer, but only to a certain degree — federal laws will still supercede any statewide changes. “Can we make ourselves somewhat safer? Yes we can,” Malloy said. “Massachusetts has done that, New York has done that, Connecticut has done that … about 12 states have done that since Sandy Hook. But we’re all endangered in the commonwealth and in my state because the federal government will not take an action.”