(Reuters) -- Connecticut would become the first U.S. state to ban the sale of guns to people on government watch lists under an executive order that Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said on Thursday he will sign.

The measure, which Malloy said needs federal approval, would require state police to review whether a potential gun buyer was on the federal no-fly list or on a watchlist for people suspected of ties to terrorism.

It would also revoke existing gun permits issued to people whose names were found on such a list.

The move follows a call by President Barack Obama for Congress to prohibit people on the no-fly list from purchasing firearms in the wake of the last week's massacre in San Bernardino, California, of 14 people by a married couple inspired by Islamic State militants.

"I am taking this commonsense step with this executive order simply because it's the right thing to do," Malloy told reporters in Hartford. "If you can't fly without clearing government watchlists, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun."

State gun-rights groups were quick to criticize the move, which they said they believe runs afoul of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.

"I think it is downright dangerous and above and beyond what is constitutionally acceptable," said Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

Almost three years ago a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 young children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

Following that attack, Malloy pushed through one of the strictest gun laws in the United States, banning more than 100 types of military-style rifles and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 bullets.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest welcomed Connecticut's move but said that the Obama administration was determined to press ahead with federal action on guns, noting that people can travel across jurisdictions to circumvent local laws limiting firearm purchases.

"There are necessarily some shortcoming to that approach," Earnest told reporters at press briefing on Thursday. "That is why ... the president's commitment to keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them continues to be a priority of his federal legislative strategy."

The ban would not have stopped the California attack as the shooters were not on any government terrorism watch list.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; editing by Alan Crosby)