Attorney General William Tong and Gov. Ned Lamont Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Attorney General William Tong said a decision to hold a press conference to reiterate the state’s vigorous defense of the Connecticut law that prohibits most people from owning semi-automatic rifles and magazines with more than 10 bullets was not one he took lightly. 

“I don’t want to be here. I’ll be honest,” Tong said. “It is outrageous that they’ve come into Connecticut to attack our gun laws after all that we’ve been through. I didn’t choose this battle. I didn’t pick this fight.” 

He said for the National Association for Gun Rights to ask the court to invalidate a law that’s been on the books for nearly a decade is highly unusual. 

The group, which filed the original lawsuit in U.S. District Court in September, filed the motion for a preliminary injunction Thursday. 

“They’re asking the court to immediately step in an invalidate the assault weapons ban and say it should not be enforced,” Tong said. “There is a really real risk that it could happen soon.”

He said the 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook is approaching and “radical extremists from out-of-state want to come into Connecticut and repeal the laws that we passed in the wake of that tragedy.” 

He said to do that “is not just wrong, it’s sick. That’s why we are going to push back so hard and so forcefully.”

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

A high court struck down New York’s concealed handgun licensing process in a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas. While the National Association for Gun Rights 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.”

The National Association of Gun Rights states in their preliminary injunction that the right to own these firearms is protected by the Second Amendment. 

“Courts and legislatures do not have the authority to second-guess the choices made by law-abiding citizens by questioning whether they really “need” the arms that ordinary citizens have chosen to possess,” the injunction states. 

It goes onto read: “The Second Amendment’s plain text covers the Banned Firearms, so it falls to the State to attempt to justify its law as consistent with historical tradition rooted in the Founding. It cannot possibly do so, because the Banned Firearms are commonly possessed by law abiding citizens, and Bruen has already established that, by definition, there cannot be a tradition of banning an arm if it is commonly possessed.”

The state has until Nov. 18 to respond to the preliminary injunction.