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State Organizations Lead Charge Against Connecticut Gun Law

Monday, June 24, 2013

On April 4, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed the inappropriately named “Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety.” On May 22, a coalition of law-abiding gun owners led by the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen and the Connecticut Citizen’s Defense League, along with businesses and individuals, filed suit to strike down this new burden to lawful gun ownership. As explained in the complaint, the suit seeks to “vindicate the right to the people of the State of Connecticut to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.” The NRA is assisting in this litigation. 

The “Constitution State’s” unconstitutional legislation is a wide-ranging attack on the Second Amendment that seeks to burden law-abiding gun owners in every facet of exercising their rights. The law immediately bans the sale and transfer of all magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds; bans more than 100 semiautomatic rifles and pistols by name; bans those under 21 from purchasing semi-automatic centerfire rifles; and criminalizes the transfer of any firearm that is not conducted through a federally licensed dealer and subject to federal paperwork. Additionally, those using magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds for self-defense are barred from loading more than 10 rounds into the magazine, and a magazine cannot be carried for self-defense if it extends below the bottom of the pistol grip—language that potentially encompasses the vast majority of pistol magazines.

Still to be implemented are portions of the law that require a “long gun eligibility certificate” in order to purchase any shotgun or rifle, and the registration with the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection of all semiautomatic firearms the state now deems “assault weapons,” along with all individual magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Those hoping to avoid this government invasion of privacy by simply holding onto currently possessed firearms not considered “assault weapons” won’t be spared, as the new law requires an “ammunition certificate” for those not in possession of a carry permit or “long gun eligibility certificate” in order to buy ammunition or new magazines.

The suit raises a Second Amendment challenge to the bans on magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds and popular semiautomatic firearms. As in other pending cases, the complaint points out that “Magazines that have a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition are commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens throughout Connecticut and the United States,” and thus protected under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision.

The complaint’s challenge to the semi-auto ban explains that the firearms banned by the legislation are in common use and therefore cannot be banned. However, the complaint goes further, noting the arbitrary nature of the criteria for classifying a firearm as an “assault weapon.” It explains that features such as pistol grips, telescoping stocks, and detachable magazines are “safety, accuracy, and ease-of-use features [that do not] make a rifle, shotgun, or pistol more powerful or dangerous,” and that a ban on such features “decreases safety, accuracy, and ease-of-use for law-abiding citizens and is not rational.”

The complaint also argues that provisions of the new law are “vague, fail to give notice, and violate due process” because certain provisions are incapable of being interpreted properly by the ordinary citizen. For instance, the law’s ban on magazines that “can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than ten rounds of ammunition” cannot be properly understood. The complaint asks who would have to be capable of converting a magazine, and what level of knowledge would be required to do so. Other problems arise from the names that the legislature uses to ban popular semi-auto firearms. The names listed in the law are not necessarily marked on the firearms, so there is little way to tell if a particular gun was intended to be banned.

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of this case.

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