Second Amendment Lawyer Challenges Weapons Ban
The lawyer who is leading the charge to have Connecticut's new gun control laws declared unconstitutional got his start two decades ago as a public defender in the Bronx.
Brian T. Stapleton moved on to become a Stamford solo attorney, where much of his work involved representing gang leaders charged with dealing drugs under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Those RICO cases often hinged on constitutional issues, including questions about possible illegal search and seizure.
From there, he moved onto the larger firm of Goldberg Segalla, where he now works out of the White Plains, N.Y., office. His experience handling constitutional issues was put aside for a time, as he focused on civil defense, but came back into play when his partners asked him to handle a gun rights case about five years ago.
"My experience handling criminal defense work is what got me started in the Second Amendment gun law challenges," said Stapleton, who remembers that first case well.
After the home invasion murders in Cheshire in 2007, a client's daughter who lived in Connecticut bought a handgun for protection and obtained a permit to carry the weapon. When she was flying out of the Westchester County Airport, she told the ticket agent she wanted to check the weapon in, as federal law allows.
"Instead, she was arrested on a federal weapon possession charge," Stapleton said. Because of his background, Stapleton was tapped by his firm to handle the matter. "I managed to win the case in her favor," he said.
Now, hundreds of gun cases later, Stapleton is the point man in a challenge brought to Connecticut's sweeping gun control reform brought in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown. Stapleton and his clients, the Connecticut Citizen's Defense League and Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, claim the new law is overly broad and violates the Second Amendment.
The lawsuit was filed in May. In late August, Stapleton took the unusual step of filing a motion for summary judgment, even before the case was fully briefed. The reason, he said, was that U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello in Hartford asked the plaintiffs to submit a motion in support of their cause of action.
"We interpreted that as the court authorizing us to file a motion of summary judgment and that's what we did," Stapleton said. In the motion, he attacked the Connecticut law as stepping on the rights of citizens to protect themselves.
"This is a classic case of an Alice-in-Wonderland world where words have no meaning," the memorandum says. "Connecticut's fundamental premise in passing the Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety is that any firearm it wishes to ban loses Second Amendment protection, as long as it is deemed as an assault weapon."