No-fly list gun restriction makes sense

In announcing his plan to sign an executive order that would deny issuance of gun permits to individuals on the U.S. government's “no-fly” list, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is once again positioning himself, and so Connecticut, as a leader in pursuing sensible gun restriction policies. And what could be more sensible than denying a person, judged so risky that he cannot get on an airplane, access to a deadly weapon?

It should be a federal policy that background checks for gun purchases include a review of the no-fly terror watch list. However, too many Washington politicians are more concerned about keeping the campaign checks coming from the gun industry and its voice piece, the NRA, than they are about protecting Americans.

The Republican-controlled House continues to block all efforts to connect gun purchasing and the no-fly list. Many conservative lawmakers refuse to consider even rational proposals for fear of being attacked as weak on Second Amendment rights.

Into the void steps the Connecticut governor in seeking access to the federal list. Connecticut already has among the most practical gun laws in the nation, outlawing the sale of semiautomatic weapons designed to kill many people fast and large-capacity magazines intended to keep the bullets flowing.

Connecticut is also a leader in doing a thorough job in reviewing firearm permit applications, denying permits to those with criminal records, incidents of domestic violence, or mental health issues that raise doubts about rational behavior. Federal authorities should work with Gov. Malloy so that the permit review can be improved.

State residents should be under no illusion that this additional step alone will significantly reduce the chances of bad people getting guns. Connecticut is a small state. As long as Congress and many other states refuse to pass reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, people who shouldn’t have guns will get them and weapons that have no reasonable civilian use will remain in circulation.

However, being unable to do enough is no excuse for doing nothing, and Gov. Malloy is doing what he can. If the no-fly list becomes available to Connecticut, governors in other states may well follow his lead.

Predictable howls from pro-gun groups have ensued, such as the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. It argues the governor’s order would violate the constitutional due process protection because using the no-fly list could block the right to bear arms of individuals “who have not been indicted or convicted for any crime.”

Admittedly, there is a history of people unfairly ending up on the no-fly list. If the point is that federal authorities need to do a better job compiling that list, we agree.

As for the due process argument, however, it fails for one good reason — there is a process. Those denied gun permits have a right to administrative appeal and, if not satisfied, to state Superior Court. This would provide the opportunity to demonstrate placement on the no-fly list was unwarranted.

Gun advocates shrouding themselves in the Second Amendment should recognize that the shroud is getting a bit thinner. In what is becoming a pattern, the U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear a challenge to a ban on semiautomatic weapons established by Highland Park, Ill. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit had upheld the ban as constitutional.

The high court had previously declined to consider a challenge to a New Jersey law prohibiting the carrying of guns in public and to a San Francisco law requiring handguns to be disabled or locked away when not being carried.

The prevailing case lower courts are using in upholding the constitutionality of gun-control laws is the landmark District of Columbia vs. Heller decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled citizens have a constitutional right to keep arms for self-defense.

However, that same decision allowed for reasonable restrictions, including prohibitions on “dangerous and unusual weapons.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit cited that language in upholding the constitutionality of Connecticut’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

By refusing to take up these cases, the U.S. Supreme Court is signaling that the lower courts are getting it right. Reasonable restrictions on access to guns are constitutional. Keeping people on the no-fly list from obtaining gun permits is reasonable.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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