Pro-Gun Forces To Appeal Federal Court Ruling
Barely 24 hours after a federal judge upheld Connecticut gun control laws passed in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, the lawyer who challenged the constitutionality of the measures on behalf of gun owners notified the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of his clients' intent to keep fighting.
Attorney Brian Stapleton, who practices in both Stamford and White Plains, N.Y., represents the plaintiffs, which include the Connecticut Citizen's Defense League and Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen. Their lawsuit names Gov. Dannel Malloy and other state officials and specifically objects, among other things, to the state's decision to add more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban and restrict the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Stapleton said that while U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello ruled against the Second Amendment advocates challenging the law, the judge's 47-page opinion also offers fodder for an appeal.
Covello began his written decision, released Jan. 30, by stressing that his role was to interpret the law, not to make policy judgments. "Whether regulating firearms is wise or warranted is not a judicial question; it is a political one," he wrote.
The judge's legal analysis relied heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the justices, in a 5-4 vote, concluded that the Second Amendment protects private ownership of firearms that are "in common use."
In the Connecticut case, the plaintiffs argued that assault weapons are commonly used for hunting, shooting competitions and by individuals protecting their homes and themselves. The state disputed the claim of widespread usage. Covello actually sided with the plaintiffs on the question, but he nevertheless concluded the state was justified in banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines because it had a legitimate interest in reducing violence.
"While the act burdens the plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights, it is substantially related to the important governmental interest of public safety and crime control," Covello wrote.
He added that the Second Amendment rights of gun owners are protected by the wide array of non-assault weapons that can be used for protection and hunting. He further noted that while some of the language used in the legislation was "not written with the utmost clarity," those passages were not "unconstitutionally vague."
Stapleton said he took special note that the ruling acknowledges the plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights "before it guts them." He added that Covello's acknowledgment that firearms and magazines are "in common use" and have a lawful purpose bolsters the argument of his clients.
The legislature approved a sweeping gun and weapon control measure last spring, just months after a young gunman shot and killed his mother and 26 students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The legislation prompted three lawsuits in all.