NEW LONDON — Lawsuits have been threatened against the state's new sweeping gun legislation, and the first to be filed is by the Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights, a relatively new organization.
The suit represents Scott Ennis of New London, the group's founder, who suffers from Hemophilia A, which has caused him severe joint damage. The legal move was first reported by the Hartford Courant.
In related news, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, on its website, said it is joining forces with the National Rifle Association and Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen to underwrite a Second Amendment legal challenge to the state's new gun laws and is asking members for contributions. It also warns against competing suits that could undermine its efforts.
Ennis, in his suit, says he wants to continue to have access to an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that is on the list of banned assault weapons adopted by lawmakers in a bipartisan deal last week.
"The AR-15, due to its ease of handling, low recoil, adjustable features and customizability, is particularly suited for disabled persons in order to engage in lawful use of firearms, including hunting, recreational and competitive shooting and personal self-defense,' the suit says.
It says Ennis and other disabled persons require firearms with such banned features as "pistol grips, forward grips, and folding or telescoping stocks, in order to safely and effectively exercise their fundamental right to bear arms, including participation in shooting sports, hunting, and lawful self-defense from criminal attack.'
Ennis says he needs a vertical grip on the AR-15 because of his joint problems. He said he owns an assault weapon for target-shooting and self-defense.
The suit further challenges the law for limiting magazines to 10 rounds, which it says "unfairly and arbitrarily deprives law-abiding disabled citizens, including the plaintiffs and members of DSFR, of their fundamental right to bear arms.'
Under the new rules, Ennis, as owner of one of the banned weapons, would have to register it, as well as any high-capacity magazines, but he can keep the gun and the magazines he now has and continue to use them for home defense and target-shooting. He cannot buy any replacements of the banned weapon or magazines, however.
Ennis said he learned to shoot at a YMCA camp when he was 10. He said he founded his group in July 2012 as an educational platform to help returning disabled veterans continue to enjoy firearms. Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights has 2,600 members in Connecticut and 15,000 across the country, Ennis said.
He said he did not start lobbying on the issue until New York proposed new gun legislation after the killing of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and that it wasn't the original intent of the group.
Attorney Scott Camassar in North Stonington, who is representing Ennis, said the suit has been given to a marshal for delivery to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Connecticut is one of a number of states that bans assault weapons and limits the size of magazines.
Ennis said his group's suit isn't being underwritten by any other gun advocacy group.
The suit was brought as the U.S. Senate voted to allow debate on a proposed law that would strengthen background checks and make straw purchases of firearms a federal offense. There is no guarantee it will pass.
Malloy's office issued a statement in response to the suit.
"We've known for some time that groups opposed to the new gun violence prevention law would be filing suit against it. We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the attorney general's office to defend it. Let's not forget that this has happened before. In prior instances where Connecticut has passed common-sense restrictions on firearms, there have been challenges. They have all been unsuccessful,' said Andrew Doba, spokesman for Malloy.