Gov. Dannel P. Malloy seems to be following the unlikely example of Goldilocks in dealing with the legislature on gun-control after Sandy Hook. He is looking for an approach that is just right after first being too soft, then too hard.
He wants the legislature to pass a strict ban on the sale and possession of large-capacity magazines, like the ones Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first graders and six educators. But he won’t say if its absence would be a deal breaker, an invitation to a veto.
“We’re not talking about a veto. I continue to believe that a ban on the possession of magazines over 10 [rounds] would be the best way to do this,” Malloy said Tuesday. “On the other hand, it’s the legislature’s process.”
For two eventful years, Malloy has been the alpha male of Connecticut politics, constantly prodding the legislature to follow his lead and embrace his agenda on taxes and spending, economics and jobs, education reform and higher-education reorganization.
But he is giving the legislature space on guns as it struggles a month past its first self-imposed deadline of late February for a legislative response to the carnage of Sandy Hook.
“I’m just the governor,” he said.
The legislature seems to certain to pass a gun bill that will ban the retail sale of military-style weapons like the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle used at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But its leaders are struggling over large-capacity magazines.
The future sale of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds will be banned, but the debate revolves around whether possession of the older magazines will become illegal contraband, subjecting owners to criminal charges if they don’t sell or destroy them.
Some parents of Sandy Hook seem ready to give legislators a nudge on the issue: The founders of Sandy Hook Promise have reserved a hearing room at the Legislative Office Building for a press conference Thursday morning.
“They are ready to tell us their agenda,” said Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who reserved the room at the group’s request. “They didn’t tell me what that was.”
Bye said she was under the impression that the families of some victims would speak out, adding their voices at a pivotal time. Calls to Sandy Hook Promise went unanswered Tuesday.
Betty Gallo, a lobbyist for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said a strong statement from the parents on the issue of large-capacity magazines would determine the gun-control group’s posture toward the question of compromise.
“We’ll follow the parents’ lead,” Gallo said.
In the weeks after the Dec. 14 attack in Newtown, Malloy seemed to focus on the community and the families, staking no strong position on gun control.
He abruptly reversed course in late February, harshly chastising legislators for failing to act. He proposed his own gun-control package Feb. 21.
Since then, he has continued to outline his position, describing what should be in the bill.
“I’m pushing. I’ve pushed pretty hard,” Malloy told reporters Tuesday. “In fact, when I pushed, many of you and others said I was pushing too hard in getting out in front of it.”
He has not tried, however, to lobby those who may be resisting a ban on the possession of large-capacity magazines.
“I’m not sure how many of those folks would take my call,” Malloy said.
House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, did not hesitate when asked what would be the most helpful thing Malloy could do on gun control. It involved waiting for the legislature to place a bill on his desk, not to prod or cajole them to get it there faster.
“The most helpful thing for the governor to do would be to sign the bill,” Sharkey said.