Middletown — Republican gubernatorial contender Tom Foley told the state’s largest gun group Tuesday night that he would block further gun-control legislation if elected, but he has no plans to seek repeal of the sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws approved last year in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I will promise you this, if I am governor, any further attempts at restrictions on law-abiding residents by our legislature will stop at the governor’s office,” Foley told members of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, who packed the Elks Lodge for their monthly meeting.
Gun owners are a potential swing vote in the Republican primary, but they have yet to find a champion willing to promise an effort to repeal the Sandy Hook gun law, which restricts the retail sale of some semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines.
Foley suggested Tuesday night that the question of repeal is moot.
“A repeal of the current gun laws, certainly with the current legislature, is unlikely, so that’s not an issue,” Foley said. He said during an interview after his remarks to the groun that if elected he does not plan to introduce legislation amending the state’s gun laws.
Despite that stance, Foley seems to have the best chance of winning support among gun owners. His remarks were welcomed Tuesday by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, which endorsed him in 2010 when he lost to Democrat Dannel P. Malloy by fewer than 6,404 votes.
“I believe he is our best bet,” said Dave Bicknell, 33, a mechanic from East Haven.
Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, one of Foley’s main rivals for the GOP nomination, voted for the gun bill signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, as did Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, another potential candidate. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a declared candidate, is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an association that rules him out for support among many gun owners.
“We don’t want them. You can have them,” said Christopher Chechoski, a state Department of Transportation worker from Bridgeport, of the other Republicans hoping to become the next governor in 2015. “Hopefully Foley just doesn’t screw us like Malloy did.”
Foley, who owns guns for sports but is not a member of gun groups like the NRA, was noncommittal when asked if he would support repealing certain aspects of the state’s new gun law, such as restricting how many rounds of ammunition gun magazines can carry.
“What I’ve said to this group is that if there were proposals from the legislature that reduce the burdens on law-abiding citizens, I would support it,” he said.
So are capacity limits a burden?
“I don’t know, the legislature decides these things, not the governor,” he said.
Foley told the crowd of at least 200 people that he lost the last gubernatorial election by only 6,400 votes, and all it might take this time around is for the 11,000 members of this group to show up at the next election. The potential gun vote is far larger: There are more than 200,000 residents with pistol carry permits.
“Now is the time to gather around electable alternatives to our current leadership,” he said.
Foley’s appearance at the CCDL drew criticism by the Connecticut Democratic Party.
“Tom Foley is pandering to the NRA, and he made it pretty clear tonight that if elected, he will repeal Connecticut’s common-sense gun control legislation,” said James Hallinan, a spokesman.
“He is so desperate to buy an election using the money he’s made off of the blood, sweat and tears of hard working people, like he has attempted to do in the past, that he’ll even cozy up to the NRA and roll back Connecticut’s common-sense gun legislation.”