With the passage of stricter gun control laws in Connecticut, one organization has already filed a lawsuit to have the new legislation struck down.
Disabled Americans for Firearms Right, a national organization that advocates for the rights of disabled individuals to own guns, filed a suit this Monday in New London Superior Court. DAFR founder Scott Ennis said that the law in question, Public Act 13-3, is discriminatory as it bans a wide range of features that make guns accessible to those with physical disabilities, thus unfairly infringing on their right to bear arms.
“I personally believe every firearm owner should have the equal opportunity to use firearms,” Ennis said. “[The banned features] are options disabled individuals must have to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and it’s a crime to take those rights away based on disability.”
Ennis opposes Section 23 of the act, which bans large capacity magazines carrying over 10 rounds of ammunition, and Section 25, which outlaws commonly-used Armalite Model 15 rifles as well as over 100 other firearms, including those with cosmetic features such as vertical handgrips and adjustable stocks. Disabled people like Ennis, whose joints have been damaged from complications with Hemophilia A, require these features to properly use a gun.
Juliet Manalan, press secretary for Gov. Dannel Malloy, said the state had expected opposition to the new gun legislation and is confident it will sustain such legal threats.
“We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the Attorney General’s office to defend it,” Manalan said. “In prior instances where Connecticut has passed common sense restrictions on firearms, there have been challenges. They have all been unsuccessful.”
Scott Camassar, Ennis’ attorney, said the newly banned features do not make guns any more dangerous than the semiautomatic weapons that the law currently allows. In preparation for the lawsuit, Camassar said he will use the testimony of firearms experts and engineers to explain how cosmetic features do not increase a gun’s lethality. Members of Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights will also testify.
“The distinction that legislators are making in the weapons ban is not really rational,” Camassar said. “It doesn’t really matter whether one rifle has a pistol grip or not — they shoot the same way.
Camassar also criticized the process by which the law was passed, claiming that the bill was “rushed,” “sloppy” and “poorly written.” Rather than undergoing a routine legislative procedure, state legislators underwent an emergency certification process, which bypasses public hearings to enact laws as quickly as possible and is usually reserved for responses to natural disasters.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, physically disabled Americans are over two times more likely to become victims of violence than the general population. With a membership of over 15,000 people nationwide and 2,700 in Connecticut, Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights caters to individuals with hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, cerebral palsy and missing limbs from war-inflicted injuries.
“As far as self-defense goes, a person with a disability may not have the same options as a non-disabled person in a self-defense situation,” Ennis said. “Disabled individuals have spoken to me that they have had assaults or have been attacked at one point or another.”
Calling it “an attack on lawful gun owners,” Camassar said the act overemphasizes gun control while neglecting sufficient focus on the more important areas of school safety and mental health.
But Attorney General George Jepsen disagreed with Camassar and Ennis, showing confidence in the effectiveness of the law.
“I applaud the General Assembly and Governor Malloy for taking action and passing this bill in order to make our schools and our communities safer,” Jepsen said in a public statement. “It is my belief that this important legislation will withstand a court challenge, and my office is prepared to vigorously defend the law, should any court action be filed challenging its constitutionality.”
Jaclyn M. Falkowski, executive assistant for press and communications for the Office of the Attorney General, said the attorney general is currently reviewing Ennis’ complaint, and will respond in court.
923,000 physically disabled Americans suffered from nonfatal violent crimes in 2011.