In a powerful and emotional State of the State address on Wednesday, Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy displayed the kind of leadership needed throughout the nation on the issue of gun control. Overcome by emotion as he spoke of the courage of the teachers and administrators of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the governor had to stop and compose himself. Then Malloy went on to take a stand on guns that brought the assembled legislators to their feet in a burst of applause. He said:
“When it comes to preventing future acts of violence in our schools, let me say this: more guns are not the answer. (standing ovation) Let me be very, very clear. Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom. That is not who we are in Connecticut, and it is not who we will allow ourselves to become.”
What Connecticut will not allow itself to become is the very thing that the National Rifle Association has advocated that we all become–a nation arming ourselves in the hallways of our schools in a frightening display of aggression, instead of adopting more reasonable measures for providing security. Malloy insisted that we all have an obligation to “take action in a meaningful way,” saying:
“We must balance our respect for individual rights against our obligation to provide for the greater public safety.”
The ability to do so has been hampered in Connecticut by the presence of the three major gun manufacturers that are based there: Colt Manufacturing Company, Sturm, Ruger & Company, and Mossberg & Sons. Through threats to leave the state and relocate elsewhere, these companies have had an outsize influence on gun control legislation. In 2009, legislators were considering a requirement that guns be microstamped so they could be identified by the marks they left on ammunition. When a Colt executive told a hearing that the bill would prompt the company to leave, it was immediately shelved.
Just last year, legislators refused to adopt a ban on the type of high-capacity ammunition magazines used to mow down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook. However, the massacre seems to have brought lawmakers together on the need for action. Malloy didn’t propose specific measures but, also on Wednesday, legislative leadership began researching gun-control laws. House minority leader, Lawrence Cafero Jr., expressed the need to respond to the crisis with civility and bipartisanship, saying:
“I think we’re going to see a lot more common ground than you would expect.”
While he has his differences with the governor on other issues, he expressed respect for Malloy’s conduct in regard to the shootings:
“We, as citizens, owe him a debt of gratitude for the way he led us through Sandy Hook, and you could tell it has obviously affected him deeply. God bless him for it.”
The governor himself was stunned to be giving the kind of address he ended up making. As he said to the gathering of lawmakers:
“In the early days of December, I began thinking about what I’d like to say. Now, while it’s only been a few short weeks on the calendar, we have all walked a very long and very dark road together.”
It now appears that by working with one another, they may yet emerge into the light.
You can watch portions of Governor Molloy’s speech in this video: