Over the more than five years since Sandy Hook, the governor of Connecticut has acted as the Cassandra of gun control, the angry prophet destined to be ignored, at least in the ranks of the NRA and Congress. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy first warned America two days after 26 children and staff died in Sandy Hook School that mass shootings were coming to your schools, your children.
Malloy said it again at the State Capitol and then again on MSNBC on Thursday, the day after another young man with an AR-15 invaded another public school, this time in Parkland, Fla., this time killing 17 students and staff.
“Not two days after Sandy Hook, I said…these shootings are coming to your town,” Malloy recalled in a midday press briefing at the Capitol in Hartford. “They are coming, in essence, for your children. Or your movie-goers. Or your nightclub-users. Or your theater-attenders. They are coming for you.”
Since a teenager with an AR-15 entered Sandy Hook School on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, killing 20 first-graders and six educators, America has recorded 239 school shootings. Using data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, the New York Times tallied the casualties in those shootings as 300 wounded and 138 killed.
Those were just the schools. Already in 2018, there have been 69 children 11 or younger killed or wounded by gunfire in various settings. The toll for those ages 12 to 17 was 354. For all of 2017, there were 732 younger children killed or wounded by gunfire. The toll for the older demographic came to 3,234.
Malloy, now 62 and in the last year of his second and final term as governor, was barely at the midpoint of his first term when he was notified of a school shooting in Sandy Hook, a village in the community of Newtown, a suburb off I-84 between Waterbury and Danbury. He left the Capitol knowing children had been shot, but not how many.
He eventually would take on the task of notifying the waiting parents of missing children that all survivors had been identified, that their children would not be coming home. In the weeks and months that followed, Malloy grew noticeably thinner, worrying even some political opponents. He attributed the weight loss to exercise.
Malloy now knows well the routine of mass shootings, the lowering of flags, the expressions of sorrow by some, anger by others. Malloy is in the latter camp.
With bipartisan support, Connecticut responded to Sandy Hook with a law that expanded background checks for the purchase of firearms and ammunition and restricted the availability of military-style semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines.
Congress did nothing, not after Sandy Hook or after 58 were killed and more than 800 wounded at a music festival in Las Vegas last fall. The shooter in Las Vegas used bump stocks and other accessories that effectively converted his AR-15s into fully automatic weapons, exotic devices with no use for self-defense or hunting.
Malloy bitterly noted Thursday was the anniversary of Congress’ rolling back an Obama-era regulatory attempt — one offered after Congress declined to consider gun controls after Newtown — to make it harder for persons with mental disabilities to purchase firearms. Obama’s rule would have added information from the Social Security Administration regarding mental disability benefits to the National Instant Criminal Background Check database, which is used in firearm background checks. It was not only opposed by gun owners, but by some civil libertarians and disability advocacy groups.
“That’s the day we’re in,” Malloy said of the rollback’s anniversary. “What the hell is the president of the United States doing signing that bill? And what the hell are the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States voting on that? And why would you puff your chest about making these guns available to people with mental health challenges.
“Those very same people who voted for that very same bill one year ago, and it was signed, are the same people who say, ‘Well, this is not a gun problem; it is a mental health problem.’ They speak out of both sides of their mouth. They do not care about the consequences of what plays out in our country now on a daily basis. They have blood on their hands with respect to these killings of 17 individuals in Florida and other shootings that have taken place almost on a daily basis in schools across America.”
Whether any gun controls, such as those adopted in Connecticut, would have made a difference in Florida, is subject to debate.
Scott Wilson, the president of Connecticut’s largest gun owners’ group, said, “While some politicians are calling for more laws that will do nothing, the public should be aware that numerous existing laws were broken in this mass murder, and more laws will not stop a deranged person from killing.”
But the statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive are generally accepted as a running tally of gun violence in America, a nation where the Supreme Court has affirmed a Second Amendment right to own firearms, while not barring reasonable regulation.
On MSNBC, Malloy said the mental-health regulation was reasonable.
“Quite frankly, any senator who has voted against legislation that would make us safer should resign,” he said. “They should be called out for the cowards that they are, because they are more afraid of the NRA than they are of seeing someone else’s children shot and killed in a school.
“It is time Americans rise up and understand, as I said two days after Newtown, that this is going to come to your town. It’s going to come to a school near you. It’s going to come to a movie theater near you. It’s going to come to a church near you, if we don’t do something about it. I predicted that these things would happen with increasing frequency.”
There were 1,843 gun deaths in the U.S. in the early weeks of 2018. Based on data over the past two years, the number will exceed 15,000 by New Year’s Eve, some destined to come in the mass shootings the governor of Connecticut says are coming.
The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as incidents involving four or more victims. Over the past four years, American has averaged 333 every year.