HARTFORD, Conn. – Gun rights supporters are suing Connecticut officials over part of a 2013 state gun control law passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, saying it unconstitutionally bans people from loading more than 10 rounds of ammunition into their firearms.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court cites the Second Amendment right to bear arms and the ability of people to better defend themselves with more bullets in their guns.
“Law abiding gun owners in Connecticut are left more susceptible to harm or death by being limited in their means of self-defense,” Holly Sullivan, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said in a written statement. “Criminals who are intent on doing harm will not follow this same law.”
The defense league, the Second Amendment Foundation and two Connecticut gun owners filed the lawsuit against Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella, state police Col. Stavros Mellekas and Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr., none of whom were in their current jobs when the gun control law was passed.
“This is a legal process, in which they were named as a result of their current position,” said Brian Foley, a top aide to Rovella, who oversees state police. “We will work through this important process, unfortunately we cannot comment further.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states can regulate firearms to protect public safety, said state Attorney General William Tong, whose office will defend state officials and the gun law.
“Commonsense gun violence prevention measures are clearly constitutional,” Tong said in a written statement. “Reasonable limits on high capacity magazines save lives. The vast majority of the American people support — and demand — these basic public safety measures.”
State officials passed some of the strictest gun control laws in the country after a gunman used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 20 young children and six educators at Sandy Hook in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.
The laws included a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. People who owned “large capacity” magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition before the law took effect were required to notify the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and were allowed to keep them, but are prohibited from putting more than 10 rounds in them.
Gun control supporters say the law can save lives by limiting how many bullets a shooter can fire before having to reload. It was approved by former Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, and the Democratic-controlled legislature.
But gun rights supporters say that magazines that hold more than 10 rounds are considered standard and that many firearms are not available with magazines that hold fewer than 10 rounds.
“This law does nothing more than penalize law-abiding citizens while criminalizing components of handguns they own that were previously legal,” said Allan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, based in Bellevue, Washington.
The two gun owners suing the state are Susan Ross, of East Haddam, and Domenic Basile, of Watertown, who both own handguns with magazines designed to hold more than 10 rounds.
“A person with 15 rounds of ammunition available will be better able to defend himself or herself from a criminal gang, or from a drug-crazed criminal who continues attacking even after being shot, than a person who has only 10 rounds of ammunition available before they must reload their gun,” the lawsuit says.
Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, said the lawsuit should be dismissed in the interest of public safety and public health. The alliance was formed to prevent gun violence after the Sandy Hook shooting.
“Assault weapons and high capacity magazines are the weapons of choice for mass shooters,” she said. “The U.S. Constitution must protect the lives of innocent children and adults in schools not the gun lobby's pursuit of profits selling weapons of war designed to efficiently kill maximum number of people.”