New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island Enter into Agreement to Create Multi-State Database That Will Share Information on Firearms, Law Enforcement Efforts and Supplement Federal NICS Database
New Multi-State Coalition Will Trace and Intercept Firearms to Stop Flow of Out-of-State Guns
Nation's First Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Will Conduct Studies to Better Inform Policy Makers
Earlier today, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced the formation of the new "States for Gun Safety" coalition to combat gun violence. In the face of repeated federal inaction, the coalition will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to better share information and tackle this devastating epidemic through a comprehensive, regional approach. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort that will create a multi-state database to supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation's first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide. More information is available here.
A rush transcript is available below:
Governor Murphy: Good morning, everybody. I'm incredibly honored to be joined by my fellow governors to announce a coalition that we're going to call "States for Gun Safety." The quick back story is this is something we have been talking about for a year or more. In New Jersey—and it derives itself from a very simple reality—in New Jersey over 80% of the gun crimes are committed with guns from out-of-state, on the one hand. And we, like my fellow governors and states on this call, already have what are viewed to be, I think, nationally strong gun laws. That doesn't mean they can't be stronger. In our case, we're working with the legislature to enact a whole series of steps. But it has to accept the reality that getting engaged with other like-minded states, and hopefully beyond, we can mitigate this awful scourge. This is not a reaction, I think I can say, I'll say for myself, I think for all of us it's not a reaction to Parkland, that awful tragedy we saw play out yet again last week, but it is something certainly that in light of that awful tragedy I think we felt we wanted to accelerate. And all of this, obviously, in the context of complete and utter inaction in Congress. And our collective view, again, if I may say on behalf of all of us, is that let's form a coalition of like-minded states, particularly in the absence of national legislation, and in that coalition try to move that ball forward toward a better reality. Some of the things that we've talked about—we're signing a Memorandum of Understanding. Some of the items on our list would be one, to create a cross-state task force to trace and intercept illegal guns. That's a task force comprised of law enforcement and intelligence officials. We already to some extent do a lot of cooperation. New York for New Jersey is a big partner, but we think we can do more. Secondly is intel, intelligence and information sharing, obviously consistent with all the applicable state and federal laws. Again, we do some of that, in our case in particular with New York, but we think we can do more and machine that. And thirdly, to sort of pursue a regional gun violence research consortium, something that perhaps we can work through our respective state universities. We have to remember that the federal government has had a provision in place now for over 20 years that effective bars the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. So it has devolved to the states, now for over 20 years and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better result and meaningfully propelling things like smart gun technology. So, for all of the above reasons, I'm incredibly honored to be, on New Jersey's behalf, seeing this come to fruition to be in a consortium with these exceptional governors and outstanding states. And with that, I'd like to turn things over to Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.
Governor Malloy: Thank you, Governor. Thank you for your leadership, along with my fellow governors who are also on the phone, for putting this together. Hey listen, last night when I got home, I had the opportunity to watch a good cross-section of the president's comments and other speakers at the White House about gun violence in the United States and, of course, several of the parents who I know extremely well and have worked with since Sandy Hook were participating. There's a great body of knowledge, unfortunately, personally had because of these shootings at schools and night clubs and movies and churches. All of those institutions should be used for what they're supposed to be used for, not as sites of mass murder. But because of the experience we had in Connecticut, we did take some major steps individually—that is a state standing alone, we're one of the seven states that have banned the sale of assault weapons. We've taken many other steps including mental health steps and school security steps and we have waited for Washington to do something and, of course, that never quite happens. Of course, we've been lectured, I might add, by Republican leaders that the time of a shooting is not the time to talk about the things that we could do to make ourselves safer. And, of course, that's utterly ridiculous and it's a stalling tactic. What we're doing today is very different. It's saying, "Hey, we can't wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws, let's take it to the next level. Let's work across our borders. Let's not just advocate for better laws in our own state, but advocate for better laws in our region. Let's not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let's try to make our region as safe as possible." We'll reach out to other governors, I think, and invite them to participate as well. But this is significant in the sense that the states will have done something, and want to do more, and are coming together to do just that. And that's what this MOU is, that's what the shared information will be. And then finally, let me say that not only have I been governor now in my eighth year, but I was mayor of my home town for 14 years - Stamford, Connecticut, population of about 125,000 people. When we could trace weapons used in street crimes, the place that we could most effectively last trace it to was a state that had a sale (inaudible) exercise the gun show loophole. And we know what happens down south: they have these things, those guns get on I-95, and stops are made in Washington and Philadelphia and other cities, and in my state Bridgeport or Hartford or New Haven, and all the way up through New England. Those guns are resold. They end up on the street. They may not be used in mass crimes, but they're used in crimes on the street on a regular basis. And so, I look forward to working with states to try to stem that particular flow as well. And I'll turn it over to one of my colleagues who I've absolutely enjoyed working with, and everybody on the phone I've enjoyed working with, Gina Raimondo whose state is, along with the other states on this phone call, are states that have some of the lowest gun fatality rates in the nation. States that are doing something have something to be proud of, and I'll turn it over to the Governor.
Governor Raimondo: Thank you, Governor Malloy, and thank all of you for joining us this morning. So, Dan, you mentioned what you did when you were home last night. And I went home last night—I have two little kids, in fact my daughter is 13, so not much younger than Emma Gonzalez. We watched some of the coverage last night and my daughter kept asking me, as she has for the past week, "Mom, what are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about this?" Putting ourselves in the shoes of these kids. They want answers, they want action and they're afraid. So, it hasn't been a surprise to me that the kids are leading because let's face it our kids are growing up with mass shootings in the news and growing up with active shooter drills. When I was in school, probably when all the governors on this call were in school, we had fire drills. Our kids are growing up on active shooter drills. Year after year, they do the drills. They learn to barricade the door. Kindergarteners understand phrases such as lock down and shelter in place and then when the drills are over, we the parents get an email saying the drill happened and every mom and dad I know keeps getting those and it makes them scared, makes them angry. They just want to know what are we in public service going to do about it. So that's what this call is about. That's what this coalition is about. As Governor Murphy said, Congress needs to put the politics aside and get something done, pass responsible gun safety laws and we need to keep the pressure on them to do that. By the way, we've seen these youngsters putting the pressure on Congress this week and I think that's terrific, but as we know as Governors, we can't just wait on Washington to the do right thing. It would feel like forever if we waited for that so we, as said, have to take action, concrete practical action steps that Governor Murphy has outlined and I'm very pleased to be part of it and happy to cooperate and do everything that we can do to make it successful. As Governor Malloy said, Rhode Island has some of the nation's strongest gun laws, but of course our nation has some of the world's weakest gun laws and we know that stronger gun laws save lives. We know that to be fact and by the way even though we have strong gun laws in Rhode Island, something I'm proud of, it's still legal to buy a military style weapon, it's still legal to carry concealed firearms into state buildings and schools, it's still legal in Rhode Island to buy a high capacity magazine and I'm going to be working with my legislature to fix that, to change that because we need to do better. I am proud to stand up with the governors on this call to take some steps that I know will make Rhode Island safer and our states safer, we'll be gathering over the weekend with the governors from around the country at the DGA event. I hope we're able to convince other governors to join us because if we get together, we governors, we can send a powerful message to the country that it is possible to improve our gun laws and save lives and we can all look at our kids and when they ask us what are we doing about it we can give them a good answer, which is, we are taking action that will make a difference, that will make our schools and communities safer. With that I am pleased to turn it over to the excellent Governor of New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo: Well, thank you very much governor and I'm a little bit older than you and when we were in school, they were drilling for nuclear war. Look, let's be clear and let's be straight forward on this issue because it is that important and I want to thank my colleague for working so expeditiously and effective. We're not waiting for federal action. All of our states are already ahead of the federal government when it comes to laws on this issue. The Florida Parkland massacre, one would hope that it would spur responsible federal action but we're not going to hold our breath and were not going to risk our children's lives. Sandy hook happened, I remember speaking with Governor Malloy at the time, and since then 1600 people have died. After Sandy Hook was when New York passed the SAFE Act because people were so outraged and change comes when people demand change. After Sandy Hook, especially in this region of the country, people demanded change. Columbine 1999, since then there have been 200 school shootings, 25 mass school shootings, so no I'm not especially optimistic that the federal government will be a response. Let's be honest, this a federal government has gone backward on the issue. President Trump has pledged allegiance to the NRA and he's delivered for them. He defunded, in part, the NICS background check system, he stopped last February the Social Security Administration from providing information that the Obama administration put into place that would have given more information on mental health for the NICS system and the solution here is not rocket science. In many ways it's harder because it takes political courage and this is not just about the NRA, this is a politically charged issue and I think we understate the opposition when we say it's just the NRA. To be responsible on this issue you have to pay a political cost. Governors on the phone all understand that. I have the political scars from what we did and that's why it really is a test of leadership and I think right now you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington. What they said on TV was it shouldn't be a democratic or republican issue, it's an issue in life and death and they're right. Your Florida elected officials showed up at the town hall like Senator Marco Rubio, who I think should be ashamed of themselves because he had nothing responsible to say and rather than proposing baby steps, which is the worst type of political pandering, he should have at least been honest and say we have nothing meaningful to propose on this issue. At least that would have been honest. To say this is a mental health issue is a sham and a fraud because if you really believed it was a mental health issue, then you have to say, the way to combat mental health is we will have s universal background check system to make sure a person who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. We're going to have a NICS system that has a comprehensive mental health database that is in the federal NICS system. You will then have to have a federal reporting system where people could actually report people to police, people who they believe has a mental health problem. Teachers would have to be able to call police, family members would have to be able to call the police and say investigate this person because I think they are mentally ill and they shouldn't have a gun and they still have to answer why you wouldn't support an assault ban. 1934, this nation outlawed machine guns because the nation said the risk outweighs the reward. The damage that can be done with a machine gun outweighs the individual's right to own it. That is an assault rifle today. It's doable, it's feasible, we did it in this country. It's just that we've gone backwards. The answer is not to make the schools armed camps. That's where they're going to go in Washington. Why? Because that's where the NRA wants them to go. Because it means selling more guns. And the NRA is in the business of selling guns. Arm every teacher. Oh that makes sense. The only thing it would do is bring more guns into a school, more money for gun manufacturers, which is what the NRA is really trying to say. So to Governor Raimondo's point, and my other colleagues, do what you can do. Do what you can do. Today, we take the next step in the evolution of state action. We are limited by our borders so we can put in laws but then our borders are porous. Governor Malloy spoke about the I-95 corridor. That guns literally come up the I-95 corridor. Share your databases and your information so if a person can't buy a gun in New York, they don't drive to Connecticut or New Jersey or Rhode Island and buy the gun. Come up with a coalition of state actions. And then share that information. And that's what we're going to be doing. We have a mental health database in New York that now exists that didn't exist before the SAFE Act that has 77,000 people who are on the database who are mentally ill who could have bought a gun in this state the day before the SAFE Act. Share that information. On Governor Murphy's point about research, I was HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. At that time, the manufacturers said they could manufacture a smart gun. They could manufacturer a gun where the trigger read a finger print. We've done absolutely nothing on the research and the technology because they haven't been forced to do it. So do what you can and that's what we're doing. This is not a substitute for federal action. And we hope and we will push for federal action. I would like to see the national democrats put a real sensible gun control bill on the table so that people have a real choice and we have a real debate because this is not about baby steps, this is not about bump stocks and moving the age from 18-21. Those are just political crumbs to throw forward to end the political discomfort for some of the elected officials. Let's do something real and let's make a difference. This has been handled by countries across the globe. We can handle it if we want to. If we have the political courage and the political will to do it. It's that simple. But it's that difficult. And again, I thank my colleagues and I look forward to seeing them over the weekend.
Governor Murphy: We have time for a couple of questions.
Operator: We will now take on topic questions. Please press star one to enter the queue. We will pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster.
Your first question comes from Matt Arco from the Star Ledger.
Matt Arco: Hi folks, so real quick, it sounds like what I'm hearing is that Governor Cuomo gave the example about the 77,000 people on the mental health database, so you know, so those people cannot go over to New Jersey then to maybe buy guns—but are there any more examples of what's being done today—any concrete examples about how folks may be prevented from buying guns, about how this coalition may actually, you know, on day one kind of produce any sort of change, or is this just more of a gathering of the minds moving forward.
Governor Murphy: Matt, it's Phil Murphy. I would just add to Governor Cuomo's answer, this is, and again, I can't emphasize this enough, this is not in lieu of, we must continue to hold Congress's feet to the fire, particularly the Republican leadership and the Trump administration, but this is both coordinating, but I would also say deepening. Deepening in intelligence and information, sharing, deepening in the tracing and intercepting of illegal guns. Deepening in the research efforts that hopefully can make that smart gun technology that Governor Cuomo referred to that's been in existence for a couple of decades a reality. So there's a little bit of a safety in numbers here so this is clearly both laterally coordinating in a better way but also deepening meaningfully and substantively deepening. I think Governor Malloy alluded to this—I think it's fair to say that if other like-minded states want to join this coalition for gun safety, we're all ears. We're all open to that and so the broader and deeper this can be the better.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, just to add to—I'm sorry this is Andrew. Just to add to what Governor Murphy said, mental health, arrest warrant information, which is often not part of the NICS system but is part of a state system—if you have a warrant for your arrest, that is in the state controlled system, most often if you have an order of protection against you, that would prohibit you from buying a gun in New York. That is a state controlled system so all those databases that are not in the NICS federal system would be shared. And the federal system is a very limited system, right? That's the essence of the problem that the NICS federal background check is very limited. Sorry.
Governor Malloy: No, Andrew that's ok. This is Dan Malloy. I was going to make a point that you just made. We have a law that prevents folks who have protective orders against them from continuing to possess guns and likewise to buy guns in our state. Sharing that information with our bordering states and now Rhode Island and New York and I hope the not too distant future a place like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts makes perfect sense for us to give an additional level of protection to our folks who live in Connecticut and have those orders out. And sharing that mental health information ultimately makes a lot of sense to do it across borders as well. I mean we, we're neighbors. And a lot of our folks go to one another's state to make other types of purchases, the probability is they also go across the border to make gun purchase and why not share that information. The other thing is I want to be very clear, we do cooperate in some areas but we don't cooperate to the extent that we could or should and I think this was a wakeup call for all of us that there are these additional opportunities for us to work together—whether it's on research with our state or private universities, which you know I research we can do that the federal government is prohibited from doing under these very strange laws that the NRA and others have been able to convince Congress to live by. And we'll each designate those institutions in our state for that cooperative effort. But ultimately, I think what this day marks is we go beyond doing the best we can in our own state to doing the best we can in our own region.
Operator: Ok, your next question comes from Jeevan Vittal from Fox News.
Jeevan Vittal: Hello, just making sure, my name is Jeevan Vittal, I'm with Fox 51 in Hartford, Connecticut. Governor Cuomo, I was wondering when you are talking about using intelligence and the assets that your state has, I imagine some of those resources may have come from federal funding. Are you concerned about the potential political and economic ramifications from folks in Washington who feel you might not be using the resources for which they were intended?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, the assumption of your question is wrong. These are state resources that are used to compile state systems. The federal government has actually reduced the amount of money that it provides to the state to provide the information to the next background check, right. that's why when I said the federal government is going the exact opposite way, you have President Trump saying I pledge allegiance to the NRA. You have President Trump reducing the money that goes to the states to provide the information to the next background check which is the federal system which is already very limited. And then you have him curtailing federal agencies from providing information to NICS. So today you have the next evolution in state action, right? There's a federal government and then there are states. And there's a balance of power between the two. And this is the next evolution of state action as my colleagues have said. You do what you can for your state and then you form a coalition of states to be even more effective and that's what we're doing.
Jeevan Vittal: So just to be clear, the funding for this, there will be no federal dollars used in this consortium?
Governor Cuomo: These are state databases that are put together with state resources.
Governor Murphy: Jeevan, this is Phil Murphy. I'd say two things—number one, I don't know that any of us believe there's a lot of incremental money required from state resources because we're already, we've already got teams in the field. The key here is to get folks to be coordinating to more deeply and more frequently. Secondly, I want to echo something Governor Cuomo said about it's up to the states. We could probably fill in the blank in terms of what policy area we could be talking about. Gun safety is now, is our topic today. Probably the most important one we've spoken about, but I think you can argue with great credibility and passion that states and Governors will have never mattered more in the absence, either in the absence of federal action or in the unwinding of federal action. This whole idea is one that I was musing on originally way back looking at how other likeminded states had gotten together on climate policy. And thought you know, if you could do it on climate in the absence, not just in the absence but in the face of a hostile, outright hostile federal administration on climate or on guns or on tax policy or fill in the blank, what could a coalition of states do to mitigate that or push back on that and I think this is one more example of what I suspect will be many.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, and just to chime in on Phil's point, I was the former Attorney General. It is, in New York. It's not, it's not at all unusual for states to create coalitions, especially where there's a void in leadership from the federal government. This is, to the extent this is a particular circumstance, it's Governors who are coming together on an executive level to form a coalition, but state coalitions are quite frequently done.
Governor Raimondo: Yeah I would just add that collaboration is the key here. Not necessarily an additional expenditure of funds, you know. We're all gonna pass stronger gun laws in our states. We're gonna do that on our own. But we're also gonna combat through a regional approach with information sharing and frankly the White House is often saying let's let the states decide. Let's let the states do more. So we're not waiting for the federal government to act. We're doing what governors do which is take action to protect the citizens of our states.
Jeevan Vittal: Thank you, Governors.
Operator: So we have time for one more question and that is from Joe Spector from USA Today network.
Joseph Spector: Thank you, Governors. A few weeks ago, many of you did a call talking about the SALT deduction and the lawsuit regarding that. On that call you talked about trying to pressure Congress to take action to repeal that law. I wonder when it comes to gun violence here do you forsee this coalition also pushing Congress to act? Pressuring members of Congress in your state to take action to address this on a national level?
Governor Malloy: Let me say this. That I don't have to worry about my delegation in Washington. None of them have been bought off by the NRA and quite frankly have been very direct in what we believe the nation should do, which is to mimic the behavior of some of our states already. But listen to the extent that this sends a message that there are states that are interested in making their citizens safer and there are states who are not interested in making their citizens safer. That's a comparison for you to draw but I don't think it's an unfair one and if someone says there's states that are willing to do extraordinary work to lower death rates both by suicide and by crime with the use of guns and there's a federal government that in essence goes out of its way to promote the detection of guns by people with mental illness. That's a comparison for you to draw but I think it's quite stubborn.
Governor Muprhy: Joe, this is Phil Murphy in New Jersey. I echo Governor Malloy. We do have one member of our House delegation who is supported by the NRA and who is not surprisingly resisting incremental, meaningful, not incremental but meaningful legislation. I'm not sure necessarily that we need a coalition of states to put that pressure on that particular representative. We're going to do that in any event, but if that is as Governor Malloy said, if we could create a stark this is how you create safer communities vs. the alternative, and we could do that as a coalition and as our own delegation or others, I'm all in for that.
Governor Cuomo: Joe, this is Andrew. Look, there will be political accountability. People are focused on this issue and people want results. We want to make sure that it is an informed debate and it's not political pandering. When they say well it's a mental health problem. Yeah. Well then how do you keep a person who has a mental health issue from buying a gun? Then that is the question. And don't just say well it's a mental health issue as if it's a different issue and it's not about guns. It's mentally ill people having access to guns. And if that's what you're saying well then tell me your proposal for universal background check so a mentally ill person can't get around it with a gunshow loophole et cetera. Tell me where the mental health database. Tell me how people report into the mental health database. So we want to keep them honest and people deserve results.
Governor Murphy: Amen.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you all very much.
Governor Raimondo: Bye guys. Thank you. See you this weekend.