HARTFORD -- Commemorating Connecticut's first anniversary of tougher gun laws, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy didn't mince words on Thursday, challenging the National Rifle Association to support the federal Affordable Care Act and help expand opportunities for mental-health treatment.
Speaking in the same spot in an ornate Capitol meeting room where last April 4 he signed gun restrictions in response to the Newtown school shootings, Malloy said that while the NRA professes to support enhanced mental-health services, it doesn't.
"There are those who will say this is not a gun problem, it's a mental health problem, and today I want to challenge that," he said. "If it's a mental-health problem, NRA, why aren't you advocating for the ACA? Why aren't you criticizing governors who will not allow Medicaid to be delivered to their citizens, with its mental-health component? NRA, if you're serious about making America safer, you would join Connecticut, as we have had one of the most successful rollouts of the ACA, bringing mental-health treatment to tens of thousands of people who might not otherwise have it."
The NRA did not return a request for comment. A pro-gun rally sponsored by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League is scheduled for noon Saturday on the state Capitol grounds.
During a 45-minute news conference, Ron Pinciaro, president of the umbrella group CT Against Gun Violence, announced that 20 participating activist would form a so-called super PAC to support politicians who work for tighter gun laws and who voted in favor of last year's bill to create further prohibitions on military-style weapons and ban large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Social media, billboards and other support activities are to be part of the political action committee's tactics.
"We are united in our commitment," Pinciaro said. "For those who thought the `Connecticut effect' may have worn off by now, that is absolutely not the case. Our members are every bit (as) committed as they were a year ago, when the landmark bipartisan bill was signed. And now, working with this coalition you see here today, we will show our gratitude, our commitment and our support for those who stood with us."
About 100 people heard Pinciaro say that Wednesday's shootings at the Fort Hood military base in Texas underscored the prevalence of violence in the nation, despite Connecticut's efforts last year that gave the state the second-toughest gun control laws in the nation.
"They say that lightning doesn't strike twice until it does," Pinciaro said.
"Gun homicides in Connecticut have fallen from 115 in 2012 to 72 in 2013," he said. "That's the lowest rate since 2002."
In the big cities of Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, where 75 percent of Connecticut gun homicides occur, such deaths dropped from 75 in 2011 to 50 in 2013.
"As a nation, we must choose who we will serve," he said. "Will we serve the merchants of death who make profit from destruction? Will we serve those who say 30-round clips and an assault weapon are vital for hunting? Will we serve those who say it is fair and right that driving a car or getting on a plane should be harder to do that it is to purchase a handgun?"
Dr. William Begg, of the United Physicians of Newtown, who was in the Danbury Hospital emergency room during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, said that the weaker gun policies are, the higher the number of gun-related deaths will be every year.
"The Newtown tragedy of 2012 was the tipping point," Begg said. "It was the time America said enough is enough -- we cannot continue to allow 30,000 to die from guns each year."
"Strong gun laws will not stop all gun violence, but they are important, key parts to the solution," he said.
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