Connecticut will bar people on the no-fly list from buying guns.

Connecticut Plans to Be First State to Bar People on No-Fly List From Buying Guns

Connecticut Plans to Be First State to Bar People on No-Fly List From Buying Guns

The Slatest
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Dec. 10 2015 4:24 PM

Connecticut Plans to Be First State to Bar People on No-Fly List From Buying Guns

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Connecticut's strict gun laws are getting even stricter.

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Connecticut will become the first state in the country to bar people on the federal no-fly list from purchasing firearms, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced on Thursday. Malloy says he plans to issue an executive order enacting the ban and will work with the White House to gain access to the no-fly list. Connecticut already led the nation in controlling its guns with strict laws following the tragic mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and the latest first-of-its-kind move comes after similar action failed at the federal level.

"You are a governor for a reason ... to protect your citizenry,” Malloy said. He added that he would deny guns to those "who represent a real risk, as opposed to a made-up one or perceived one."

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Closing a "loophole" in federal law, Malloy has said, is "simple common sense." He is the first to take state action, but Democrats in Congress had been pushing for federal action in the wake of last month’s Paris terror attacks and again after last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino. “If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said after the Paris attacks. The California senator has proposed similar legislation in Congress, but it was rejected by the Senate last week.

In Sunday evening’s Oval Office address, President Barack Obama asked: "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon?"

But the no-fly list, which includes the names of people who are suspected of having connections to terrorist groups, is controversial. Those on the list haven’t necessarily been convicted of any crime and, according to the ACLU, thousands of names have been added to the list in error. “The no-fly-list and the broader watch list are government secrets,” as the Los Angeles Times wrote in a recent editorial following Obama's address. “People are not notified when they are put on, nor why, and they usually don't discover they have been branded suspected terrorists until they try to travel somewhere.”

According to the ACLU, the no-fly list numbers as many as 1.1 million names, the vast majority of which are noncitizens living overseas. Fewer than 10,000 are thought to be American residents. But no one knows for sure.

In a strange twist, this latest effort to clamp down on guns has drawn the mutual ire of both the ACLU and the NRA, though for different reasons. "This is a day and age in which the 'terrorism threat' label is a very, very serious one,” ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi said in federal court while arguing against a federal no-fly list on Wednesday. “It is perhaps the most stigmatizing one that the government can place on people.” Meanwhile, the NRA claimed the list is overly restrictive because they say there could potentially be hundreds of thousands of Americans on it.

Rachel E. Gross is the science web editor at Smithsonian.