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    Monday, December 11, 2023

    Federal judge upholds Conn.'s assault weapons ban for 2nd time in a month

    For the second time in less than a month, a federal judge has upheld Connecticut's assault weapons ban by denying an injunction seeking a temporary halt to the enforcement of the ban as part of a lawsuit challenging the state's gun laws.

    In a 14-page ruling issued earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton said the assault weapons banned by the state are not "commonly" used for self-defense, which would classify the firearms as protected under the Second Amendment.

    "Plaintiffs are correct that the Second Amendment provides them with the freedom to choose a firearm . . . 'that is not dangerous and unusual' and that is normally used for self-defense," Arterton said. "However, until they submit evidence that supports a finding that the assault weapons in the challenged statutes meet those requirements, they cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits of their Second Amendment claim."

    She had denied a similar injunction requested by the National Association for Gun Rights, which is also suing state officials to revoke the ban, on Aug. 3. Her ruling this week marks the third time since June that Arterton has upheld the state's assault weapons ban.

    Attorney Cameron Atkinson, one of three lawyers representing the plaintiffs, three people including two former state correction officers and two gun rights advocacy groups, said they will appeal the most recent ruling.

    "The District Court did exactly what the Supreme Court told it not to do (in other rulings)," Atkinson said Wednesday. "We're very confident that the ruling will be reversed on appeal."

    The judge also denied a temporary injunction filed by the same plaintiffs in June based on newly revised standards of what constitutes an assault weapon according to federal officials.

    Attorney General William Tong, whose office is representing state officials in the two lawsuits, hailed the ruling in a statement issued Wednesday.

    "I've said it before and I will say it again — our assault weapons ban is fully lawful, and I will continue to vigorously defend it against any and every one of these meritless challenges," Tong said. "Strong, commonsense gun safety laws, including the most recent amendments passed this year that this suit targets, save lives. Our assault weapons ban saves lives. We're not going to let these weapons of war back into our schools, our houses of worship, our grocery stories, or on our streets. Not on my watch."

    However, while calling the guns, "modern sporting arms," the group represented by Atkinson and two Republican lawmakers, state Reps. Doug Dubitsky and Craig Fishbein, is challenging Connecticut's laws that since 2013 have prohibited dealers or others from selling or possessing semiautomatic, automatic or burst-fire weapons.

    The state's ban on assault weapons was expanded with the 2013 law, enacted just months after a lone gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

    The lawsuit, which claims the laws violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, was filed last year against Gov. Ned Lamont, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella and every state's attorney, including Chief State's Attorney Patrick Griffin.

    It's about the rights of Connecticut residents to own the same firearms that others across the country are allowed to own, Dubitsky said at the time.

    "What's banned are the most popular and best-selling firearms in the country," Dubitsky said. "There are tens of thousands of people who use these guns every day."

    The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgement that Connecticut's gun laws banning the sale or possession of "assault weapons" violate the Second Amendment and a permanent injunction barring the state from enforcing the laws. The state's attorneys have been named in the lawsuit because they have the power to enforce the law through prosecution, Dubitsky said.

    In her ruling denying the injunction sought by the National Association for Gun Rights, Arterton also said the weapons were not commonly used for self-defense, which would fail the test of whether they were constitutionally protected by the Second Amendment, and that the firearms are more commonly sought for their "militaristic" characteristics, which make them "disproportionately dangerous to the public."

    The firearms are also more often used in "crimes and mass shootings than self-defense," said Arterton, who stated that during the Sandy Hook shooting, the suspect fired 154 shots from an AR-15 assault rifle and two semi-automatic pistols, killing 26 people "in less than five minutes."

    She also said that historically weapons that have been used "for unlawful purposes to terrorize and endanger the public" have been regulated.

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