HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s endorsement on Friday from a 15,000-member gun rights organization renewed accusations from Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign that Foley would support repealing the gun control law passed last year after the mass school shooting in Newtown.
Shortly after the Connecticut Citizens Defense League posted its bipartisan list of candidate endorsements on the group’s website, Malloy’s campaign called the CCDL an “extreme right-wing gun advocacy group” and claimed Foley would stand with the organization to roll back the law, which expanded the state’s assault weapons ban and barred the sale and possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
“Just this week, Mr. Foley said he would sign a repeal of the law and even said he wouldn’t enforce parts of the law to keep dangerous weapons out of Connecticut’s communities. It’s clear that Tom Foley and the CCDL would stand together to take us backward on our smart gun law,” said Mark Bergman, Malloy’s campaign spokesman.
He was referring to comments Foley made during a debate with Malloy earlier this week.
“If the legislature handed me a repeal provision of that bill, I would sign it,” Foley said Wednesday night. “That’s not saying I would seek repeal of the bill.”
Foley said he is particularly concerned that law-abiding gun owners who failed to register their once-legal assault weapons and large-capacity magazines by Jan. 1 could face a felony charge, promising he’d make sure they weren’t prosecuted. The state law, however, imposes a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders could face a felony.
CCDL President Scott Wilson said while his grassroots organization would ultimately like to see the law repealed, he acknowledged it’s not practical given the current membership of the General Assembly. His group is seeking to overturn the law in federal court.
“The leadership of the Democratic Party keeps saying that Tom Foley will repeal it. And it’s an attempt to try and scare people and scare voters, when, in fact, the only way it would ever possibly be repealed is if somehow the sentiment within the makeup of the state legislature would consider something like that,” Wilson said. “That may be years away. We’re realistic here.”
One gubernatorial candidate, petitioning candidate Joe Visconti, has said he would actively work to repeal the bill. Visconti, however, did not receive the organization’s endorsement. Wilson acknowledged that Foley’s chances of winning in November played a key role in the CCDL’s decision to back his candidacy.
“He’s not Clint Eastwood, but as far as electability goes, he’s right up there,” Wilson said.
The group’s backing could play a role in the election, considering the closeness of the 2010 race when Malloy defeated Foley by 6,404 of the 1.1 million votes cast.
“We welcome the support of the CCDL and any group seeking change in Connecticut,” said Chris Cooper, Foley’s campaign spokesman. “CCDL members have been bullied by Governor Malloy, as have teachers, state workers and parents.”
Wilson took issue with Malloy’s campaign referring to the CCDL as “extreme,” questioning why it wasn’t criticizing fellow Democrats who voted against the gun bill and also received endorsements.
“I’m a bit dismayed that the leadership of the Democratic Party and Malloy’s campaign are trying to portray us, our organization and our members, as some sort of devil incarnate,” he said. “Really, we’re just ordinary citizens that are just using our rights, our First Amendment rights, to protect our Second Amendment rights.”
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