Constitutional Law

Connecticut judge upholds post-Sandy Hook gun control law


A federal district judge in Connecticut has upheld the state’s gun control law that was enacted following the December 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The Hartford Courant reported Friday that U.S. District Court Judge Alfred Covello found the law to be constitutional. The law, which banned a broad range of assault weapons and prohibited sales of high-capacity magazines, was signed in April—four months after Sandy Hook. One month later, several individual gun owners, as well as organizations like the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League and the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, challenged those bans, arguing that they violated the Second Amendment, the Connecticut Law Tribune said.

“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 in his opinion. Covello acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s 2008 landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller protects ownership of handguns that are “in common use.” Covello agreed with the plaintiffs that the weapons and magazines were commonly used, but agreed with the government that it had to power to regulate them in order to reduce crime. Gun owners’ Second Amendment rights are protected by the large number of alternate weapons available for hunting, protection and sports events, Covello wrote.

New York attorney Brian T. Stapleton of Goldberg Segalla, who represented the gun owners, told the Courant that he was disappointed with the ruling. “This is a long way from over,” he said. “We respect Judge Covello, but respectfully disagree with him. An appeal was anticipated in this case. There are findings that we can work with, and we are going to do everything we can to get this overturned.”

“The measures enacted by the General Assembly in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy are entirely appropriate, sensible and lawful,” said Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen, who argued the case on behalf of the state, in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend them in the event of any appeal that may be filed of this decision.”

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