Given Washington inaction, states work to fill gun reform void

While the nation awaits to find out whether President Trump was serious last week when calling for Congress to enact a “strong, strong bill and really strong on background checks,” advocates for sensible gun laws can take some solace from a new and growing coalition of states dedicated to addressing gun violence.

Trump has shown no indication he is willing to get behind the sentiments he expressed at a meeting with several congressional leaders Feb. 28. At that meeting the president backed a proposal by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., which would expand background checks to all sales online and at gun shows, exempting only gun sales or transfers between family members.

Trump also voiced support for legislation co-sponsored by Connecticut’s Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy that would push states and federal agencies, including the military, to do a better job submitting criminal-conviction records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Finally, the president talked of raising the federal gun purchasing age limit from 18 to 21.

Such changes would be difficult to obtain under the best of circumstances. They are probably impossible without the president pushing his party to act. There have been no signs of that.

While federal action is critical, the formation of the “States for Gun Safety” is a welcome development. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has played a pivotal role in forming the coalition that includes Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware and Puerto Rico.

A multi-state task force will share information about individuals prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms in the respective states and Puerto Rico, be it because of arrest warrants, protective orders, mental health issues or criminal history.

Participants also pledged to work cooperatively to trace the use of out-of-state guns in crimes and share information to help intercept criminals transporting illegal guns across state lines.

A “Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium” will collect data on gun violence and make policy recommendations to reduce it based on the information they find. This innovative approach can help fill the void resulting from a 1996 congressional ban on the use of federal funds to study the health issue of gun violence.

Preferably, more states will join, improving the effectiveness of the coalition and the quality of the data it collects. In the absence of action in Washington, states with prudent gun laws must do all they can to protect the public.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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