Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed the most extensive gun control measure since 2013 on Tuesday, prompting an immediate legal battle from gun rights advocates who seek to prevent a ban on open carrying and other parts of the new legislation. The state boasts some of the strongest gun laws in the United States, and this latest legal struggle follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s expansion of gun rights and the opening of several state laws to challenges. Additionally, the landmark 2013 gun law, as well as other laws, are currently being contested in court.
“I just signed this bill that takes smart and strategic measures to strengthen Connecticut’s laws to prevent tragedy from happening,” said Governor Lamont, a Democrat. “The inaction of Congress on critical legislation to keep Americans safe requires each state to act individually.”
Late last Tuesday, We the Patriots USA, a group that promotes gun rights and other liberties, filed a lawsuit with other plaintiffs in federal court to challenge the ban, says Norm Pattis, the group’s attorney. “Individuals have the right to bear arms under both state and federal constitutions,” Pattis stated in an email, “and the state constitution guarantees a right to self-defense. No one sacrifices that right by walking out of their front door. In an era of defunding police, permissive bail reform, and liberal clemency, folks depend on the right to self-defense more than ever.”
Senate approval of the bill occurred on Saturday, and the measure passed the Senate 24-11, following a House vote of 96-51 the previous week. In addition to banning open carrying of firearms, the law would increase bail and tighten probation and parole for a small group of people with frequent serious gun offenses. It includes provisions such as prohibiting the sale of more than three handguns in 30 days to any single person, with some exceptions for instructors and others.
Also included are the expansion of Connecticut’s current assault weapon ban to include some other weapons; increasing penalties for possession of high-capacity magazines; broadening safe-storage rules in various settings; plus the addition of some domestic violence crimes to the list of disqualifications for having a gun. The legislation also enhances a ban on selling certain semi-automatic rifles to anyone under 21 and ups the penalties against gun sellers for violating state laws.
We the Patriots USA’s lawsuit claims that the new law violates second amendment gun rights, notably the prohibition on open carrying and limiting purchases to no more than three guns within 30 days. Democrats, who control both state chambers of the legislature, backed the legislation while Republican lawmakers expressed frustration, believing it was another bill that penalized law-abiding firearm owners rather than targeting perpetrators of gun violence.
Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, which killed 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, the 2013 law added over 100 weapons to the state’s current assault weapons ban, barred ammunition magazines that hold more than ten rounds, and established a hazardous weapons offender database. Another legal dispute is challenging the 2013 regulation.