gun control laws

Lawsuit Challenges CT's Ban on Semi-Automatic Weapons, High-Capacity Magazines

State leaders vow to protect the measures put in place after the Sandy Hook shooting, while the nonprofit National Association for Gun Rights says it’s defending the rights of its members with the lawsuit.

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Connecticut law that bans semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines is being legally challenged.

Those gun control measures went into effect in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Now the nonprofit National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) has filed lawsuits against several states to end these bans, including Connecticut.

State leaders say they will fight to keep the measures in place to prevent needless tragedy.

"We're not going to let people come in from out of state and send us backwards,” Attorney General William Tong (D) said. “And to put assault weapons back on our streets, weapons of war, guns that are designed for only one purpose, and that's to kill people.”

"This is outrageous that people from outside of Connecticut, try to come in and attack us for our gun laws that have kept us safe. Particularly after Connecticut suffered one of the worst tragedies any state can suffer,” he said.

Meanwhile, a 12-page complaint states the lawsuit defends the rights of all law-abiding individuals to keep and bear arms.

“We are not forgetting about our members in states like Connecticut,” Chris Stone, National Association for Gun Rights director of communications, said.

The federal lawsuit is brought by NAGR and New Milford resident Patricia Brought.

“Our members there are law abiding citizens, they have the right to keep and bear arms peacefully,” Stone said. “The Heller decision, the McDonald decision, and most recently, the Bruen decision from the Supreme Court all affirmed that it is an individual's right to keep and bear arms.”

The lawsuit states millions of law-abiding American citizens own semi-automatic firearms for lawful purposes.

According to the complaint, "magazines are indisputably 'arms' protected by the Second Amendment.”

“The AR-15 is the most commonly purchased and owned semi-automatic rifle in the country,” Stone said. “Yet if you try and own one in the state of Connecticut, and you try and own standard capacity magazines that fit that rifle, you will become a criminal overnight.”

The document also states the term “assault weapon” is not commonly used in the firearms industry, and " a rhetorically charged political term meant to stir the emotions of the public."

“That is something states like Connecticut have done to just say wholesale, we're going to take these firearms off the market, you can no longer own them. And by the way, if you're in possession of them, we're going to make you a criminal,” Stone said.

The complaint calls Connecticut’s ban on these weapons unconstitutional, then calls on the defendants, which include Governor Ned Lamont, to justify regulation.

“Let me say this about the legal challenge, there's no way that they will prevail,” Tong said. “Connecticut's gun laws are constitutional. They've been challenged before, we beat them before, we beat the NRA in 2016. And we're going to beat them again.”

Tong says the implementation of these gun control measures in 2013 has made a difference.

“I think we've proven that over the past ten years since Sandy Hook, those laws have kept us safe,” he said. “We are one of the safest states in the country. With respect to gun violence. I think most people in Connecticut agree with our laws, they want to safeguard and protect those laws.”

Lamont is also vowing to protect the measures.

“Connecticut’s law banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines was adopted as part of a bipartisan effort to prevent needless tragedy and is overwhelmingly supported by the people who live here. It has withstood previous legal challenges despite the persistent efforts of opponents of gun safety to undermine it,” Lamont said in a statement. "When it comes to the safety of the people of our state, we must stand up and do what is right – that is why I proposed strengthening, not weakening, our assault weapons law earlier this year.”

The executive director of CT Against Gun Violence wants to see a strong response from state lawmakers, citing Sandy Hook and other tragedies where these kinds of weapons were used.

“In Connecticut, we know very well what having an assault weapon in the hands of someone who is a danger to themselves or others can do. We saw it with the Sandy Hook tragedy, and we saw we've seen it since then,” Jeremy Stein, CT Against Gun Violence executive director, said.

"AR-15s and assault weapons have been used in the shootings at Sandy Hook, Parkland, Aurora, Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas, and the list goes on and on. We need to make sure that these weapons of war are not in the hands of civilians,” he continued.

In response to the lawsuit, Sandy Hook Promise is encouraging communities to continue to pass common sense gun laws, writing in a statement:

“As state courts – including Connecticut – listen to arguments claiming the Bruen historical analysis standard is grounds for repealing bans on semi-automatic firearms, we ask them to consider the facts of recent history.  It tells us that these weapons, as well as high-capacity magazines, are increasingly chosen above all others by those who intend to cause mass death and harm to our communities.”

The nonprofit adds: “We can protect our children’s lives and also protect the Second Amendment.”

On Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers will further address the lawsuit during a press conference. Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Tong and other Democratic leaders will denounce the lawsuit at the State Capitol at 2:30 p.m.

NAGR filed similar lawsuits against Massachusetts, Colorado, Hawaii and Highland Park and Naperville, Illinois.

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