Lawyers for Connecticut gun rights advocates are expected to appear Tuesday at a federal courthouse in New York, where they will appeal a 2014 decision upholding the constitutionality of the state’s post-Sandy Hook firearm restrictions.
In January, U.S. District Court Judge Alfred Covello ruled that the gun law, adopted in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, passed constitutional muster even if it burdened Connecticut gun owners.
Covello ruled against a lawsuit brought by the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, gun store owners, and individual citizens. The plaintiffs had argued that the law was unconstitutional and provisions within it were too vague to apply.
The gun rights group will take their case Tuesday to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Arguments are scheduled at the Thurgood Marshall federal courthouse in New York City and will begin sometime after 1 p.m.
“We’re very excited to finally be able to go down, some 20 months after the law was passed, to have our side of story heard in the court room. We’re trusting in the process and hope that ultimately our rights are recognized for what we believe they are under the Second Amendment,” Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said Monday.
In a statement, Attorney General George Jepsen said his office was also looking forward to Tuesday’s arguments.
“We were gratified by the district court’s ruling upholding common sense firearms restrictions enacted in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. We believe those laws appropriately advance public safety without infringing constitutional rights, and look forward to making that case to the Court of Appeals tomorrow,” Jepsen said.
Among the changes in the gun law was an expansion of the number of weapons prohibited in Connecticut and a ban on the sale of magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds. Residents who had previously purchased guns or magazines banned by the law were permitted to keep them, but required to register the equipment with the state.
A scorecard released last December by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign concluded that under the new regulation Connecticut has the second strictest gun laws in the country with only California considered more stringent.
In a 47-page appeal, lawyers for the gun rights advocates argue that the state of Connecticut “fundamentally” misunderstands the Second Amendment.
“The State’s argument that law-abiding citizens do not really need the firearms and magazines it bans is irrelevant. The Second Amendment guarantees to law-abiding citizens, not to legislatures or courts, the right to select the protected arms they deem best suited for their self-defense,” the brief reads.
In his ruling upholding the law, Covello said the state was permitted to burden the Second Amendment rights of gun owners because the regulations are “substantially related to the important governmental interest of public safety and crime control.”
In its brief, the Attorney General’s Office said the new law is an update to policies Connecticut has had on the books for year.
“Connecticut has banned military-style assault weapons for twenty years. The Act updates that legislation to keep pace with the evolving militarization of the civilian gun market over the past two decades. The AR-15 which is the centerpiece of Plaintiffs’ challenges here-is the quintessential military-style assault weapon targeted by the Act,” the brief reads.
The Connecticut appeal will not be the only gun lawsuit the court hears Tuesday afternoon. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association’s challenge of the that state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, or SAFE Act, is also on the docket.