Local group first to challenge state's new gun laws

A New London-based group of disabled gun owners is about to serve Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with what is believed to be the first of several lawsuits challenging the gun control measures Malloy signed into law last week.

City resident Scott Ennis, managing member of Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights and a longtime gun owner, said the new law is discriminatory and would deprive him of his Constitutional right to bear arms and his civil rights on the basis of physical disability. He suffers from hemophilia A, a bleeding disorder that causes severe joint damage. He said he is unable to straighten his arm or rotate his hand under a rifle that does not have a vertical forward grip like those found on the now-banned AR-15-type weapons.

"The AR-15, due to its ease of handling, low recoil, adjustable features, and customizability, is particularly suited for disabled persons in order to engage in lawful use of firearms, including hunting, recreational and competitive shooting, and personal defense," the lawsuit reads.

The group is represented by North Stonington attorney Scott D. Camassar, who has known Ennis since they both attended New London High School in the 1980s and Camassar competed on the school's rifle team.

Camassar said the lawsuit has been delivered to a marshal and within days would be served on the governor through the Attorney General's office and filed in court.

He said the new gun laws would not do anything to prevent another Newtown.

"Everyone's heart was broken, there's no question," Camassar said. "I'm a parent. I'm a husband of a teacher. I'm as concerned about school violence as anyone else. If I thought this bill was going to prevent anything, I'd be all for it."

Malloy's spokesman, Andrew R. Doba, said this is the first he's heard of any challenge to the legislation.

"We've known for some time that groups opposed to the new gun violence prevention law would be filing suit against it," Doba said in a prepared statement. "We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the Attorney General's office to defend it. Let's not forget that this has happened before. In prior instances where Connecticut has passed common sense restrictions on firearms, there have been challenges. They have all been unsuccessful."

Camassar said the AR-15 and other semi-automatic guns of its type are among the most commonly owned firearms in the country. Recent estimates suggest there are approximately 4 million AR-15s in the country, which would include many thousands in Connecticut, he said.

"They're out there," he said. "You can make every single one of them illegal today. People who want to misuse them are going to get them."

Camassar said cosmetic features like forward grips and adjustable stocks don't make a rifle more legal, nor do factory-standard magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

"Disabled citizens of Connecticut should not be precluded from using firearms lawfully because of the governor's desire to enact 'the toughest gun laws' in the nation," Camassar said. "The governor needs to accommodate the disabled. The new law unconstitutionally discriminates against the physically disabled, and we intend to hold the state to the clear requirements of Connecticut constitutional and statutory law."

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League announced Thursday that it would band together with other gun rights groups, individuals and gun clubs to challenge the new law.

"CCDL has formed a working alliance with the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen and the National Rifle Association to challenge the newly minted Public Act 13-3," group president, Scott Wilson, said. "The expanded list of common firearms that are included in the language of the act affect many gun owners that have never even broken a law."

k.florin@theday.com

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