Image of a grill and picnic table in the Shenipsit State Forest in Somers. (CTNewsJunkie File Photo)
A grill and picnic table in the Shenipsit State Forest in Somers. (CTNewsJunkie File Photo)

A federal court judge on Wednesday dismissed a challenge of a century-old Connecticut regulation largely prohibiting the carrying of firearms in state parks. The judge said the complaint lacked standing because the regulation was unlikely to be enforced.

In a 17-page ruling, Judge Janet Bond Arterton granted the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by plaintiff David Nastri, a financial advisor who sued the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection after learning the agency barred parkgoers from carrying guns for self-defense.

Arterton cited testimony from state Environmental Conservation Police director, Col. Chris Lewis, who told the court he could not recall an instance in which EnCon officers had enforced the regulation. 

“Plaintiff’s ‘imaginary’ and ‘speculative’ conjecture is insufficient to show an actual ‘impending’ and ‘credible’ threat of prosecution, and so he lacks standing,” Arterton wrote in the ruling. 

Despite being on the books since 1918, Arterton found no evidence the regulation had ever been enforced. 

“Neither party’s witnesses have personal knowledge of the Challenged Regulation being enforced; Plaintiff admitted that he has never heard of this regulation being enforced against anyone, and Colonel Lewis testified that he could not recall a single circumstance in which an EnCon ranger or officer had been required to enforce the regulation,” the judge wrote.

The rule in question prohibits residents from carrying handguns in state parks and forests except in certain limited situations when DEEP allows them in order to participate in activities like hunter education courses, range shooting, or the hunting of small animals like rabbits, according to the Office of Legislative Research

Anyone caught violating the rule may be subject to a $75 fine and DEEP could bar violators from state parks for up to one year.

The complaint describes Nastri as frequenting Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and Naugatuck State Forest. He had previously carried a handgun on these trips but stopped when he learned the practice was prohibited, according to court documents.

Nastri, who is also a lawyer, told the court he would no longer carry a gun in the parks until the regulation is overturned because he “will not willfully disobey a law,” according to the ruling. 

In a blog post on Wednesday, Nastri’s lawyer, Cameron Atkinson, said he was appealing Arterton’s ruling. Atkinson said the dismissal ignored existing court precedence in order to avoid ruling on Second Amendment issues.

“We have already filed our notice of appeal, and we will seek speedy review from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. If the Second Circuit forces us to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, we will,” Atkinson wrote. “We view the district court’s decision as legally and logically unsustainable, and, at times, it opens fire on its own reasoning.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General William Tong, whose office defended DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes in the case, applauded Arterton’s ruling in a statement on Wednesday.

“Judge Arterton was right to dismiss this speculative complaint for lack of standing. Connecticut’s commonsense gun laws are life-saving and constitutional – they strike the right balance between respecting Second Amendment rights while also protecting public safety,” Tong said. “This decision protects our ability to safely enjoy our State parks and forests. My office will continue to vigorously defend our state’s commonsense gun laws and our state’s ability to protect against gun violence.”