Disabled Man Claims New Gun Regulations Are Unconstitutional
A lawyer representing a disabled New London man is suing the state over its newly expanded assault weapons prohibition, which he says violates his client’s constitutional rights as a disabled gun owner.
The bill, which the governor signed into law a week ago in response to the December murders of 20 first graders and six educators in a Newtown elementary school, makes sweeping changes to the state’s gun regulations.
Included in the changes is an expansion of the number of firearms prohibited in Connecticut. Under the new law, weapons like the AR-15-style rifle used in the Newtown massacre are prohibited from future sale. It also bans the sale of ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.
Scott Ennis, a New London man with Hemophilia A, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the law as is the group he founded, Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights. In the complaint, Ennis’s lawyer Scott Camassar argues that the recently-enacted bans violate the rights of disabled gun owners.
Camassar singles out AR-15-style weapons as convenient weapons for people with disabilities.
“The AR-15, due to its ease of handling, low recoil, adjustable features, and customizability, is particularly suited for disabled persons in order to engage in lawful use of firearms, including hunting, recreational and competitive shooting, and personal self-defense,” the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, disabled individuals need the customizable and adjustable features of AR-15-style guns. The features the lawsuit names include characteristics that, under the new gun violence law, make a weapon an assault rifle. Those features include a pistol grip or a telescoping stock.
The lawsuit also claims that the prohibition on the future sale of ammunition magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds also violate the rights of gun owners.
“This provision is vague, ambiguous, and unfairly and arbitrarily deprives law-abiding disabled citizens . . . of their fundamental rights to bear arms, including participation in shooting sports, hunting, and lawful self defense, in that ‘large capacity magazines’ are convenient and necessary for disabled persons such as the plaintiffs to participate in these lawful activities,” the lawsuit said.
The complaint asks the court to prohibit the state from enforcing the law.
Attorney General George Jepsen’s office issued as statement saying they were reviewing the complaint and would respond to it in court.
“However, it is our belief that this legislation is lawful, and the Office of the Attorney General is prepared to vigorously defend the law against this and any other potential court challenge,” Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for Jepsen, said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokesman Andrew Doba said the administration expected legal challenges to the new regulations.
“We’ve known for some time that groups opposed the to the new gun violence prevention law would be filing suit against it. We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the Attorney General’s office to defend it,” he said.
Malloy is the only named defendant in the lawsuit.
Asked Thursday about the potential for lawsuits challenging the law, Malloy said the bill was well-thought out and would hold up.
“I would point out that we had an assault weapons ban in the United States for over 10 years. It was never successfully challenged,” he said. “I think, by and large, this package is on strong footing.”
The governor also reacted to recent news that PTR, a firearms manufacturer in Bristol, planned to relocate its business in response to the bill’s passage. In a statement on its website, the company criticized the process that produced to the bill and the impact of the new regulations. It encouraged other gun manufacturers to leave Connecticut.
“We are making a call to all involved in our industry to leave this state, close your doors and show our politicians the true consequences of their hasty and uninformed actions. We encourage those in our industry to abandon this state as its leaders have abandoned the proud heritage that forged our freedom,” the statement said.
Malloy said his office was mailing a second letter to gun manufacturers, encouraging them to stay in the state if they are selling products that can be legally sold in the country.
“I’m concerned for the welfare of any legitimate business in Connecticut. You want them to be successful, you want them to do well,” he said.
Malloy said he and the legislature tried to stack the welfare of manufacturers against public safety, and after the Newtown incident, the state moved toward stricter gun control on a bipartisan basis.
“We lost 26 of our residents. Twenty children — 20 babies and six adults,” he said.
The governor said he did not believe there would be a vast number of jobs lost in the state if firearms manufacturers leave in response to the new law.
“There aren’t that many gun companies in Connecticut. This is not the Connecticut immediately following the second World War in which Bridgeport was the second largest munitions manufacturing center in the United States. Those companies have left Connecticut over a long period of time,” he said.