Legal or Not, Malloy’s ‘No-Fly No-Gun’ Move is Political Genius

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, speaks to the media after signing into law HB 6801, An Act Promoting Economic Growth and Job Creation in the State, at the Capitol in Harford, Conn., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. The bill includes loans to small businesses, tax credits for new hires and job training. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

From a purely political perspective, it was “How to Get Face Time 101.” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy last week galvanized the gun-control base and infuriated conservatives and gun nuts when he declared that he would, by executive order, ban the sale of guns to anyone on a terrorist, no-fly watch list. Jumping into the gun violence debate in such a polarizing way resulted in Malloy being featured on a number of national news shows raising his profile

There is of course the pesky matter of whether Malloy’s order is legal or even constitutional. But Malloy pushed forth nonetheless claiming, “if you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun.” It’s a simple, populist, seemingly common-sense soundbite and it reverberated across the country.

The jury is still out (so to speak) on the legality of Malloy’s move. But even those who claim it can’t pass legal muster continue to give it more publicity. The politics-in-media website Mediaite was apoplectic declaring Malloy was going to “waste millions of taxpayer dollars defending an action that would almost certainly be overruled at every level of the U.S. judicial system.” Well, ok, then.

Conservatives in Congress defeated a measure that would have banned people on the no-fly watch list from buying guns anywhere in the country. Their reasoning was that a good portion of the no-fly list may be inaccurate based on faulty information or because of duplicate names. They argue Ted Kennedy was once on the list.

The argument falls flat. Let’s assume someone is erroneously on the watch list. Is it so imperative that the person buy a gun that they can’t wait to clear up the discrepancy? (I don’t Ted Kennedy would throw out the entire idea whether he was on the list or not) Maybe it’s me, but I don’t care if 90 percent of the watch list is wrong. In fact, I don’t care if somehow I was placed on it. If someone in that 10 percent is a possible terrorist, they shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.

Malloy scored big on the issue across the nation. His appearances included CNN, CBS, FOX, MSNBC, and others. Other platforms running stories on the governor’s move included Huffington Post, USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Time, and many others.

Public relations coup aside, Malloy is on shaky legal ground. There’s that inconvenient Second Amendment mucking things up. It’s what various gun nut groups (like Connecticut’s CCDL) are clinging to. It’s also questionable as to whether Malloy’s executive order is akin to making law. Courts tend to frown on that as it’s exclusively the legislature’s job. Malloy himself may have made that argument by stating “If Congress will not act, we in the states will.” In other words, if the legislative body won’t act, I’ll make the law myself.” Malloy probably wants that one back.

One of the more curious aspects of this debate is that apparently New Jersey already has such a law in place, Ironically, it was signed two years ago by Gov. Chris Christie—the law-and-order Republican presidential candidate who has spent many months trying to persuade right-wing nuts that he’s their man.

No matter. Malloy has already won big on the homeland security issue whether or not his executive order is struck down by the courts. And he’ll continue to win the issue. It’s hard to argue that it’s OK to let people on a terrorist watch list be free to buy an A-K if they want to.