The first lawsuit challenging the state’s new gun control law was served Thursday by a group that represents disabled citizens, charging that the ban on military-style rifles eliminates the main firearm that many disabled people use in exercising their gun rights.
“The AR-15, due to its ease of handling, low recoil, adjustable features and customizability, is particularly suited to disabled persons in order to engage in lawful use of firearms,” said the lawsuit by Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights.
The lawsuit names Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as the defendant, and was served at the office of Attorney General George Jepsen. Scott Ennis of New London, who heads the group, is a named plaintiff — he suffers from hemophilia and has joint damage that requires that he use an adaptable gun in order to safely shoot, he claims in the lawsuit.
Ennis was among the opponents of the law who fought against it before the General Assembly adopted the military-style weapons ban, and Malloy signed it, last week. Under the law, guns that have semiautomatic action, detachable bullet magazines and at least one military-style characteristic — such as a forward grip, an adjustable stock or a pistol grip — are banned for retail sale in Connecticut.
The lawsuit, which will be filed in state Superior Court, also claims that large-capacity bullet magazines are “necessary and convenient” for disabled people, and therefore should not have been banned.
The lawsuit does not seek money and does not cite the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal measure. It claims a denial of civil rights, citing state statutes and the Connecticut constitution.
“The provisions of the Act unfairly and arbitrarily deny these fundamental rights to the plaintiffs,” said the lawsuit, prepared by attorney Scott D. Camassar of the law firm of Stephen M. Reck LLC in North Stonington.
Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said this and other lawsuits based on the ban have been expected.
“We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the Attorney General’s office to defend it. Let’s not forget that this has happened before,” Doba said. “In prior instances where Connecticut has passed common sense restrictions on firearms, there have been challenges. They have all been unsuccessful.”
Doba was referring to challenges to the 1993 law that created a list of banned firearms, including a partial ban on military-style rifles. The industry got around that ban with “Connecticut” models that didn’t have certain features. But the latest ban might have no such loophole.
Separately, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League is teaming up with the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen and the National Rifle Association to prepare a lawsuit challenging the ban, said Jonathan Hardy, treasurer of CCDL.
“We’re looking at all the issues. It’s a horribly written law, it never went for public hearing,” said Hardy, who added that CCDL has raised $26,000, including $6,000 at a meeting this week.
Jepsen’s office issued a statement saying the legislation is lawful and that the office would “vigorously defend the law against this and any other potential court challenge.”
No one denies that the law curtails gun rights that existed previously. The issue is whether that change is warranted by real or possible benefits to public safety, and whether the law violates the state and federal constitutional rights to own and use firearms.
It’s unclear whether the lawsuit by Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights, if successful, would nullify parts of the Connecticut law entirely. The AR-15, which is a generic design, not a brand, rose to become the nation’s most popular firearm in part because of its adaptability and ease of use.
“Disabled individuals have unique needs when it comes to lawful use of firearms, whether it be recreational or competitive shooting, hunting, home defense, or personal self-defense, and they rely on safe, customizable firearms like the AR-15,” Camassar said in a written statement. “Cosmetic features like forward grips and adjustable stocks do not make a rifle more lethal, nor do factory-standard magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.