Two gun rights organizations, six individuals, and two gun stores filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a federal court to strike down state’s new firearms regulations.
The lawsuit was filed in response to legislation the governor signed in April. The legislature passed the bill on a bipartisan basis in response to the December murders of 20 children and six educators at a Newtown elementary school.
The law expanded the number of firearms prohibited in Connecticut, banned the sale of ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, and imposed new eligibility requirements for the purchase of all guns and ammunition. It also created the first statewide gun offender registry.
The lawsuit was filed by the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen and the Connecticut Citizens Defense League on behalf of eight other plaintiffs, including individual citizens and stores that sell firearms. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, and Emergency Protection and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford are listed as defendants along with others.
The lawsuit challenges a number of the provisions included in the the new firearms statute, including the prohibition of additional weapons under the state’s assault weapons ban and the new restrictions placed on high-capacity magazines. It contends that portions of the law are too vague for residents to apply.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, said the administration has known for a long time that groups opposed to the law would be contending it in court.
“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,” Doba said in a statement.
The complaint points to a number of plaintiffs who sought to purchase firearm equipment but were not able to do so because of the law.
Stephanie Cypher, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, owns a Saiga shotgun that was originally equipped with a magazine holding more than 10 rounds.
“While at the Hoffman’s store, Cypher inquired as to whether it was legal to purchase a magazine holding more than ten rounds for her shotgun,” the complaint states. “In response, she was told that such magazines are now classified as ‘large capacity’ magazines and are no longer available because they are illegal. But for the Act, Cypher would have forthwith purchased a magazine that is capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition for her shotgun.”
In a statement CCDL President Scott Wilson thanked the National Rifle Association for its “vision,” which he said helped to make the lawsuit possible.
“Connecticut’s new gun ban violates Second Amendment rights by depriving law-abiding citizens of firearms that are in common use throughout the country precisely because of their known effectiveness in the protection of citizens, their families, and homes,” he said.
Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, also called the law unconstitutional.
“This law will do nothing to prevent a tragedy or solve the problem of crime committed with guns. Instead of violating constitutional rights, we need to get serious about addressing violence and mental illness,” he said.
The lawsuit argues that the new law won’t do anything to reduce crime and could have the opposite effect of making residents less safe.
“The Act’s prohibitions on ownership of these firearms and magazines will not reduce unlawful homicides or other violent crime and will reduce public safety,” the complaint concludes.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen said he believes the statute is constitutional and will defend it in court.
“Our office will review this complaint and respond in court. However, it is our belief that this legislation is lawful, and the Office of the Attorney General is prepared to vigorously defend the law against this and any other potential court challenge,” Jaclyn Falkowski said in a statement.
That complaint argued that the law violated the rights of the plaintiff, who benefited from some of the customizable features of some of the rifles banned under the law. The lawsuit filed Wednesday makes similar arguments on behalf of plaintiffs including one woman who lost an arm to cancer.
In an April interview, George Mocsary, a visiting law professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author of Firearms Law & the Second Amendment, said he believed some aspects of the law to be unconstitutional. Moscary said the assault weapons ban in particular did not pass constitutional muster. However, because of the tendencies of courts in the Northeast, he said it was unlikely a court would strike down the law.