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Connecticut Governor To Ban Guns For People On Federal Terrorism Lists

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Yesterday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that he would sign an executive order banning those on federal terrorism watch lists from purchasing firearms in the state. The move comes following the shootings in San Bernardino, where a married couple who shot and killed 14 people used guns that were bought legally. Last week, in an address to the nation, President Obama also urged lawmakers to do more.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?

CORNISH: Earlier, I spoke to Gov. Malloy about his intentions to sign the order. And I asked him, why wasn't it enough that the FBI is actually alerted when a person on the watch list attempts to make a purchase?

DANNEL MALLOY: Well, because, ultimately, they don't have the power to stop someone from making a purchase. And as you know, there was a vote in the Senate where there was a movement to allow that purchase to be denied, and it lost. Listen, in Connecticut we have a very aggressive appeals process for anyone who's denied access. And a very large percentage of those folks ultimately are able to buy a gun. So what I'm saying is, does it make any sense to not have some level of control in that situation? And I think, when asked, the American people believe that that's an appropriate time to take a timeout and figure the situation out.

CORNISH: I think the question is, for a governor, does this feel like something that is doable, right, when there aren't - when legislation isn't moving on a national level, when many lawmakers, other Democrats have not been able to gain traction with some of the proposals? Does it feel like this is just at least one thing you can do kind of on your own?

MALLOY: Yeah, I would say it is one thing that I believe we should be in a position to do on our own, absolutely. I also have never shied away from engaging in this particular discussion. You know, since 9/11, 400,000 Americans have died as a result of gun use. We've lost 3,800 people worldwide - Americans - to terrorism. Our immediate reaction is to talk about terrorism and ignore 400,000 deaths in the period since 9/11. I think we need to have a broader discussion - and I'm certainly happy to participate in that broader discussion - on how we make America safer. You know, there are things that are common sense. And if we're going to deny someone access to a plane or someone is on a terrorism watch list, why should the people of my state be required to permit that person to buy a gun without a hearing?

CORNISH: You've talked about how your state approaches this, but nothing here can stop someone in a neighboring state, right, or someone from purchasing a gun from a neighboring state. What would your executive order matter if someone can simply buy it in another state?

MALLOY: It would matter because they couldn't buy it in my state. They'd have to travel to another state if that was what they were intending to do. And if they needed a weapon immediately or in a very short order, they wouldn't be able to get it. But let me say this - that I'm certainly cognizant and actively participating in the broader issue. My ultimate goal is to make sure that we have universal background checks in America because someone in the neighborhood, perhaps, that you live in will be involved in a mass shooting - a Sandy Hook shooting, or a community colleges, or mass shootings in high schools or in malls. This is going to change.

CORNISH: That's Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. Thanks you so much for speaking with us.

MALLOY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.