CT governor bucks trend, calls out NRA’s ties to gun makers

Connecticut enacted a round of gun-control laws last week that are being called the strictest in the country.

The legislation, signed by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, bans more than 100 kinds of firearm, including the semi-automatic “military-style” rifle used to slaughter 20 innocent schoolchildren in Newtown last year, as well as magazine cartridges holding more than 10 rounds and a host of other restrictions.

Connecticut is among a handful of states, including Colorado and Maryland, that have strengthened existing gun laws or created new ones in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre responded, saying the legislation won’t stop criminals from getting their hands on guns.

Malloy told CNN over the weekend that LaPierre “reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention. That’s what he’s paid to do.”

That quote is the one getting the most attention. What’s not getting attention, however, is Malloy’s other point: That the elite Washington media are not holding the National Rifle Association to account.

Malloy reminded Candy Crowley, the host of CNN’s “State of the Union,” that most Americans favor some kind of universal criminal background check as a precondition to the sale of firearms (according to one poll, nine in 10 Americans favor background checks). Why doesn’t the NRA support such a wildly popular measure? The reason is obvious, the Connecticut governor said:

“What this is about is the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible even if they’re deranged, even if they’re mentally ill, even if they have a criminal background. They don’t care. They want to sell guns.”

Hidden in this statement is an implicit critique of the elite media and its failure to connect the NRA to gun makers. Not a lot is known about the exact relationship between them, but generally, what’s in the interest of the NRA isn’t always in the interest of its 4 million members, who also favor background checks. And contrary to many lefty commentators, it isn’t simply a matter of gun makers dictating terms to the NRA.

In a report that got less attention that it deserves, Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Paul Barrett said that gun manufacturers knew they have a public-relations crisis on their hands after Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle — which was legally purchased by his mother thanks a loophole in Connecticut’s then-exising assault-rifles ban — to blast through the glass front doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School. They had to get in front of this disaster and manage the messaging, and so they turned to LaPierre.

While Barrett’s report challenges the notion, often advanced by liberal critics, that the NRA is simply a front group for gun makers, it’s clear the NRA is working for gun makers to contain post-Sandy Hook fallout.

“In the immediate wake of Sandy Hook, the NRA reassured nervous gun company reps that they could stand down, according to people familiar with the situation,” Barrett wrote. “LaPierre would handle it.”

It should be said that Malloy’s statement about gun manufacturers doesn’t come without political risk. Connecticut has a long history of gun manufacturing. As one columnist put it over the weekend, the state has been the “arsenal of democracy” since the start of the Civil War. A Malloy spokesman said the governor wasn’t criticizing gun makers, just the lobbyist, but given the intertwined relationship between the NRA and the gun industry, it’s fairly clear what he meant. And we should thank him for it.