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Don't block access to process of obtaining gun permits

Second Amendment advocates have a legitimate gripe that one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders is effectively conflicting with the U.S. constitutional directive that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So while we disagree with these irrational decisions by many of you to run out and buy guns in response to a pandemic, we will stand by your constitutional right to do so.

The right is infringed because state citizens cannot currently obtain a permit. And under Connecticut law, a person without a permit cannot purchase a firearm or ammunition or carry a firearm.

The Second Amendment proponents were thrilled when back in late March the Connecticut governor allowed gun stores to remain open during the coronavirus shutdown, listing them among essential businesses.

Ironically, Lamont may have been on stronger constitutional ground if he had (and probably should have) acted as did governors in some other states and simply closed gun stores with most other stores. He would have been doing so for a clear public health reason, treating those stores no differently. Orders to include gun stores in general closure orders have so far been sustained by courts.

Instead, while letting the stores operate, Lamont in another order suspended the state law that prohibits state and local police from refusing to collect fingerprints for the purpose of a criminal-history record checks. In other words, while police could still theoretically process the fingerprints, the legal requirement that they do so was suspended by the order.

According to the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment advocacy group with 36,000 members, police are refusing to collect fingerprints for firearms permit purposes. CCDL announced this week it had filed a federal complaint and is asking the court to remedy the situation that is now prohibiting gun purchases.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford includes six individual plaintiffs who said their efforts to get a gun permit were blocked by the inability to get the fingerprinting and criminal background check.

While the executive order links the COVID-19 health threat to giving police the authority to refuse to fingerprint for permits, that rationale is undermined by the reality that local departments continue to process fingerprints for the background checks of nursing homes, assisted living facility and home health care workers. So police must have precautions in place.

Processing background checks for these service workers is absolutely more important and should take priority over someone wanting a gun permit. Therefore we would urge the governor, as the state reopens and the crisis wanes — and having made the decision to allow gun stores to operate — to moderate his order to allow police departments to prioritize finger printing and criminal background checks. But he should remove that portion of the order that now allows law enforcement officials to completely ignore all legitimate requests for gun permit processing.

This editorial space has long supported reasonable gun control. The editorial board backed Connecticut laws banning semiautomatic assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. What CCDL dismisses as “Connecticut’s strict firearms permitting scheme” we consider a responsible requirement before a gun or ammunition can be purchased.

We are alarmed by FBI data showing there were 3.7 million background checks to purchase firearms conducted in March, passing prior records, and 2.9 million last month. People should be focused on helping their fellow Americans and acting responsibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19, not arming themselves to the teeth in anticipation of Armageddon.

But among our highest priorities is defending the protections provided by the Constitution. If the board felt one of the governor’s orders was inappropriately impinging on the First Amendment, we would certainly object.

So while the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia vs. Heller, 2008, made it clear reasonable limits could be placed on the right to bear arms, it also found “the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.”

The Connecticut Constitution states: “Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state.”

If someone who meets the legal requirements wants to buy a gun in response to a pandemic, it his or her right and it should not be infringed.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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