Gun rights group, owners, challenge state assault weapons ban
Another legal challenge to the state’s assault weapons ban, which includes popular AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles, emerged on Thursday.
Two gun advocacy groups — the Connecticut Citizens Defense League and Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation — joined with three residents to file a federal lawsuit in an attempt to overturn gun laws enacted after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, when 20 children and six adults were shot and killed.
The lawsuit seeks to remove the state’s ban on what the CCDL calls “common modern sporting arms,” and argues the ban is in violation of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The suit is the second to challenge state gun laws and comes in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which ruled that New York’s law restricting concealed weapons was unconstitutional.
The three individual plaintiffs in the new Connecticut lawsuit include two former correction officers and a woman described as a mother and victim of domestic violence who is a firearms instructor, all of whom want firearms on the state’s banned firearms list for use as self-defense.
“We all deserve to live in safe communities, but denying ownership of the most commonly owned firearms in the country is not the way to achieve it,” said CCDL President Holly Sullivan in a statement.
Sullivan said the recent U.S. Supreme Court case relating to New York gun laws “opened the door to this challenge and we believe Connecticut would be hard pressed to prove its statutes are constitutional.”
The National Association for Gun Rights filed a lawsuit in Connecticut and other states last month, one of a wave of suits expected in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
State Attorney General William Tong, in a statement, said, “Connecticut gun laws save lives, and we are not going back.”
Tong, in his statement, said he anticipated the gun lobby going after state gun laws but said he planned to vigorously defend the state from “baseless challenges.”
“We will not allow weapons of war back in our schools, our houses of worship, our grocery stores, and our communities,” Tong said.
Gov. Ned Lamont also issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, calling the state laws enacted after Sandy Hook “part of a bipartisan effort to prevent needless tragedy and it is overwhelmingly supported by the people who live here.”
“It has withstood previous legal challenges despite the persistent efforts of opponents of gun safety to undermine it,” Lamont said in his statement. “We will vigorously defend these commonsense laws that are seeking to reduce violent crime and mass shootings. When it comes to the safety of the people of our state, we must stand up and do what is right.”
The state firearms laws passed in 2013 placed restrictions on weapons and large capacity magazines, among other measures. Connecticut added a host of guns to a list of banned firearms described in state statute as assault weapons. Assault weapons in Connecticut are defined by law as weapons with certain attributes such as a semi-automatic rifle with a forward pistol grip or folding or telescoping stock.
The newest lawsuit names Lamont, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella, Chief State’s Attorney James Griffin and state’s attorneys from around the state, including New London State’s Attorney Paul J. Narducci.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case are Cameron Atkinson and Republican state representatives Doug Dubitsky of Chaplin and Craig Fishbein of Wallingford.
The 31-page complaint argues that the statutory ban on “so-called assault weapons” deprives “law abiding, responsible citizens of their constitutional rights under the guise of providing a panacea for social problems that Connecticut remains unable to solve.“
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement in response to the lawsuit.
“This latest challenge to common sense gun safety protections is destined to fail — the same fate as similar misguided and malign attacks on our state laws,” Blumenthal said.
“Having defended those laws when I was attorney general, I know firsthand how unjustified legally and morally these challenges are, but they must be vigorously fought. Our laws have doubtlessly saved lives. They have been models for other states and for the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that we successfully championed in Congress,” Blumenthal said.
The entire lawsuit can be found here.