Attorney General William Tong, Gov. Ned Lamont, and CAGV Jeremy Stein Credit: Courtesy of WFSB's Facebook page

Some of the Sandy Hook families were in a Waterbury courtroom Tuesday, while state officials were at the state Capitol speaking out against a recent lawsuit challenging the 2013 law that bans some semi-automatic rifles and limits magazine capacity. 

“This is not a fight that we choose. Nobody wants to be here,” Attorney General William Tong said at the state Capitol. “Unfortunately this great tragedy, this suffering, this loss, is part of who we are.” 

Tong said the U.S. Supreme Court threw “so much into doubt.”

While the law passed in 2013 under former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has sustained previous legal challenges, a U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door to new litigation against the law.

A few months ago the court struck down New York’s concealed handgun licensing process in a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas. While the new lawsuit doesn’t specifically challenge the handgun licensing process it did open the door to these types of new lawsuits against other types of restrictions like the ones in the 2013 Connecticut law.

Following that decision, the court can only look at historical analysis and whether the regulation at issue is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

“If there’s no pre-existing comparable historic regulation, it’s likely unconstitutional,” Chief Counsel to Connecticut’s Attorney General Cara Passaro wrote in a two-page memo in June.

“The consequences of this decision for public safety nationwide and here in Connecticut are profound,” Passaro wrote. “The framers of the Constitution could never have envisioned the AR-15 used to slaughter children and educators in Sandy Hook. They did not know that ghost guns could be 3D printed at home and untraceable when used in violent crimes. They could never have imagined that firearms would become the leading cause of death amongst our children.”

On Tuesday, Tong pointed out “this is not homegrown litigation.” 

The group filed an amended complaint Wednesday replacing the original plaintiff, Patricia Brought, with Toni Theresa Spera Flanigan, who is a member of NAGR, but doesn’t own a gun.

The complaint says she “intends to acquire arms putatively made illegal by the Statutes and but for the Statutes would do so.”

Tong said “extremist lawyers” manufactured a controversy and the lawsuit to challenge Connecticut’s gun laws. 

One of those lawyers has since withdrawn his appearance and has been replaced by Barry K. Arrington of Denver. Arrington filed a similar lawsuit in July against the governor of Colorado over that state’s ban of large-capacity magazines.

“Connecticut’s gun laws are constitutional,” Tong said. “How do I know? They were challenged before.” 

He said Connecticut isn’t going back to a time when “weapons of war” were on the streets. 

Tong claimed that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski wants to put assault weapons back on Connecticut’s streets. 

Stefanowski and his running mate Laura Devlin said that’s not true. 

“Connecticut’s gun laws are a model for federal and other state’s policies. We do not support making any changes to CT’s gun laws, including the assault weapons ban,” Stefanowski and Devlin said in an emailed statement. 

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, along with other Democratic lawmakers, joined Tong at Tuesday’s press conference. 

Bysiewicz pointed out that Stefanowski was endorsed by the NRA. However, she failed to point out that it was in 2018. 

Lamont’s message: “Keep your hands off our gun safety laws. They work.” 

He said it creates a focus on gun rights in an election year. 

“You’ve got to ask candidates where they stand on these issues,” Lamont said. 

Tong said Stefanowski isn’t allowed to change his mind on issues and the fact he felt like that four years ago “is disqualifying.” 

Tong said he didn’t pick this fight. 

“The extreme right wing coming from far away places came here to recruit plaintiffs in Connecticut and pick this fight with us,” Tong said. “That’s why we’re here.”