ctnewsjunkie file photo
Craig Fishbein speaking at a rally in 2013 (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

BRIDGEPORT, CT — A Second Amendment group filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Connecticut Saturday, claiming Gov. Ned Lamont and several municipal police chiefs have violated their rights by slowing down the gun permitting process due to COVID-19.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League is seeking an injunction to force the state to accept and process their firearms applications. The group contends Lamont’s March 17 executive order that allows police to limit hours for fingerprinting goes beyond his authority.

The lawsuit, filed by state Reps. Craig Fishbein and Doug Dubitsky on behalf of CCDL and six named plaintiffs, argues that the executive order has caused law enforcement to refuse to collect fingerprints for firearm permits and has essentially shut down the issuance of all firearm permits.

One of the plaintiffs, Joseph Coll, is a school teacher and already had fingerprints on file with the Vernon Police Department, but was still denied the ability to apply for a permit, according to the complaint.

“On March 16, 2020, Plaintiff Coll appeared at the Vernon Police Department to submit his application for a State-issued pistol permit, at which time Plaintiff Coll was informed that the Vernon Police Department had suspended the taking of fingerprints for pistol permits. In violation of CGS 29-17a, the Vernon Police Department refused to take Plaintiff Coll’s fingerprints, and refused to accept Plaintiff Coll’s application for a pistol permit,” the complaint states.

Then on March 17, Lamont issued the executive order permitting the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and municipal police departments to “eliminate or limit fingerprint hours” for firearms certificates and permits, but maintained that fingerprinting for long term care providers would continue to take place at DESPP headquarters. Additionally, that DESPP headquarters “would remain open to the general public for other purposes.” 

The CCDL wrote Lamont on April 10 seeking reinstatement of the fingerprinting and application process, and offered alternatives to the process. The governor never responded, according to the CCDL.

“While the CCDL understands these are times of unprecedented challenges, many Connecticut residents are being denied their constitutional rights just when they feel the exercise of those rights is most needed,” CCDL President Holly Sullivan said. “We respect the governor’s goal of mitigating the COVID-19 virus. However, stripping citizens of their rights does not further that laudable goal. It is in these extraordinary times that the governor must most staunchly defend the rights of Connecticut’s people. If the governor won’t, the CCDL will.”

Attorney General William Tong said Lamont has broad authority in a public health emergency and is confident the state will be able to defend its action in court.

“Our state constitution and state laws grant the governor broad authority to protect Connecticut residents and families in a public health emergency, and his executive orders have been very clearly constitutional and fully legally justified,” Tong said. “This case has no merit and we will defend the state vigorously.”