Republican candidate for governor Tom Foley said the legislative response to the Newtown school shootings didn't address the underlying problems, but he doesn't think the new gun control laws will be repealed.
On WNPR's Where We Live, Foley repeatedly said the bigger problem is mental health, and that the legislation focused too much on guns.
Host John Dankosky asked Foley specifically where he disagrees with the new gun laws. "There are an awful lot of things in there that inconvenience law-abiding citizens who believe they have a right under the second amendment to own and use firearms," Foley said.
"Do you think we should have background checks for gun purchases?" Dankosky asked.
Foley paused. "The weapons that were used in Newtown were all legally purchased," he said. "The ammunition was legally purchased. None of this would have prevented Newtown from happening. All I’m saying is that the action that was taken by public officials should’ve been addressed at preventing another Newtown from happening, and that’s not what came out of this bill. There are an awful lot of things in there that had nothing to do with Newtown."
Foley also said he would focus on getting illegal guns off the streets, but he didn't say how to do it. When asked if people with mental illness should be able to own guns, Foley again didn't give an answer.
Despite his opposition to the legislation, Foley said even if he's elected governor, he doesn't think the new laws will be repealed.
"Listen, I think that's a fixed law right now," Foley said. "People have asked me if the legislature came to me with some modifications to the law. Most laws are corrections and modifications over time. It was a pretty comprehensive bill. If the legislature came to me with some changes that made it less inconvenient for law-abiding citizens who own firearms, I would sign that, but a full repeal of the bill seems very unlikely."
One of Foley's Republican opponents, Senate Minority leader John McKinney, voted in favor of the gun control law.
At a meeting with the Quiet Corner Tea Party Patriots in April, however, McKinney indicated he would repeal the law when asked how he would react to a hypothetical repeal bill passed by the legislature. "If the legislature repeals something," he said, "I think the governor owes great deference to what the legislature does, and I would."
Another Republican candidate running for governor, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, agrees with Foley and says the law went too far. Boughton "believes the bill that eventually emerged from the legislature, went too far to curtail the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and did not do enough to address school security or mental health," according to his campaign website. "If Boughton had been governor, the bill would been very different."
Boughton was previously a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, but resigned after criticism from gun rights activists.
Recently, Joe Visconti said he would not try to get on the Republican primary ballot and focus on getting on the November ballot instead. Visconti is a strong gun control opponent.
BETHY FROM GLASTONBURY, CALLER: I don’t understand your position on the gun control law from articles that I’ve read. So can you be very specific on whether or not you support the law, and as governor, will you sign a bill to repeal Connecticut’s gun legislation?
TOM FOLEY: Listen, I’ve been very clear about this, but I’ll repeat it again. If I had been governor, the bill would’ve been very different. I think that the tragedy in Newtown, which was a tragedy that we all shared, but particularly the families that were affected in it and that community - something definitely needed to be done. But in my view, that was a mental health case and the source of the problem was a mental health issue.
I have a sister who has mental health issues, and I've been very involved in her care for a long time. So I know the challenge for families that are addressing families with mental health issues and there simply is not enough support either in the private sector care system, or the public sector, and this is an unfortunate development as state mental health institutions basically went out of business or were legally prohibited from caring for people with certain kind of needs. So that support simply isn’t there. So that would’ve been my focus of the bill.
I think that Governor Malloy overreached with this bill. I’m not quite sure why. I think a lot of the things that were in the bill would not prevent…
JOHN DANKOSKY, HOST: Be specific about the overreach. What do you think is in the bill that shouldn’t have been in the bill?
FOLEY: Well, there are an awful lot of things in there that inconvenience law abiding citizens who believe they have a right under the second amendment to own and use firearms and what I said when this tragedy happened was that the government should address any solutions they can to make sure some of this doesn’t happen again, but there’s an awful lot in that bill that had nothing to do with what happened at Newtown and wouldn’t prevent another Newtown from happening.
DANKOSKY: I was just asking you for specificity. Is there something you can point to that says “that’s in there that I wouldn’t have put in that bill.”
FOLEY: Well, anything that is inconveniencing to law-abiding citizens who believe they have a right under the second amendment to bear firearms...
DANKOSKY: Do you think we should have background checks for gun purchases?
FOLEY: Well, listen, these - the weapons that were used in Newtown were all legally purchased. The ammunition was legally purchased. None of this would have prevented Newtown from happening. All I’m saying is that the action that was taken by public officials should’ve been addressed at preventing another Newtown from happening, and that’s not what came out of this bill. There are an awful lot of things in there that had nothing to do with Newtown.
DANKOSKY: So, how do you get at this nexus of mental health and gun control, and making sure that Newtown doesn’t happen again, because I think a lot of people who err on one side say we need to have stronger mental health systems, and the other side people say we need to have fewer guns. Clearly there needs to be some mix of these two things because the problem is someone with mental health issues having guns causing problems. So how exactly would that work in your mind? In order to keep people who have mental health issues from having guns, what would that look like?
FOLEY: I think that people are misfocused. We’ve had a lot of tragedies similar to Newtown since then and...
DANKOSKY: I believe 74 school shootings since that time across the country.
FOLEY: They aren’t all shootings. Some are stabbings.
DANKOSKY: No, I mean 74 shootings.
FOLEY: But all the tragedies aren’t just shootings. The one that happened in Southern California, those three young men that were killed in his apartment were stabbed. I don’t think anyone’s proposing getting rid of knives. Listen, I think we have a cultural problem. We certainly have a mental health problem in every one of these cases. There are indications of serious mental health issues that appeared before these things happened. So I’m not sure why the focus is solely on guns because I think it’s more about people.
DANKOSKY: The question I’m asking you is, let’s say you identify someone who has mental health problems and who owns guns. What do you do?
FOLEY: Well Adam Lanza didn’t own guns.
DANKOSKY: His mother owned guns. He lived in a house...you get the point that I’m trying to ask you is how do we actually take our mental health policy and our gun policy and try to figure out some way to make sure that instances like Newtown but also like the thing that just happened in Las Vegas and the thing that just happened in Oregon and it keeps happening. I mean you and me and everyone else looks at it in the news, and I think we have the same feeling, Tom Foley. It is “I can’t believe this just happened again” and that’s gotta be how you look at it.
DANKOSKY: So how do we keep this from happening again?
FOLEY: Well, that’s what I’m saying. These are all mental health cases. So I think we need to figure out ways to help families. First of all to identify people with mental health problems that make them a risk to society and to help families when these problems emerge. I think peoples’ families know about these risks and problems sooner than everybody else. So there needs to be a way for these people to be able to reach out and seek help. And I don’t think there’s enough help there. From my own experience I know it’s very hard for families first of all to get their hands around what’s really going on, and to find experts who can help them assess what the situation is and where they can get help. That’s where I would focus it, not on taking weapons away from law-abiding citizens who have no intent of using them with any harm to anyone.
DANKOSKY: I’ll just ask you one last question on this but what about the number of guns in America right now and the fact that clearly with so many guns some are in the hands of people who have mental health problems. How do you deal with that?
FOLEY: There’s probably a bigger problem with guns in this country. The Newtown tragedy was a terrible tragedy, but there are a lot more young people that are being killed with illegally owned guns in our cities, you know that.
DANKOSKY: I do know that. We cover that every day.
FOLEY: I think the focus should be figuring out ways to get guns out of the hands of people who own them illegally and not people who own them legally. I don’t really think...
DANKOSKY: Even people who have mental health problems that we can clearly identify through talking to their family members, whatever, essentially you’re saying that the problem with illegal guns is a bigger problem than the problem of people who have mental health issues with guns?
FOLEY: Well most state laws already have some kind of a provision for making it so that people with certain mental health problems can’t purchase weapons and ammunition.
DANKOSKY: The second part of Bethy’s question: Would you repeal the current law if you were governor?
FOLEY: I think that’s fixed law right now. People have asked me if the legislature came to me with some modifications to the law. but yeah most laws are corrections and modifications overtime it was a pretty comprehensive bill. If the legislature came to me with some changes that made it less inconvenient for law-abiding citizens who owned farms, I would sign that. But a full repeal of the bill seems very unlikely.
Katie Peikes assisted with this post.