The Connecticut Citizens Defense League has launched a lawsuit against Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order suspending fingerprinting services for gun licenses and ammunition permits in the state over coronavirus concerns. The federal lawsuit, filed on Monday, alleges that the governor is violating the Second Amendment rights of state residents with the open-ended suspension of the fingerprinting services, which are required before anyone can legally purchase a firearm in the state.
But Attorney General William Tong rejected those claims and said Monday that Lamont’s executive orders “have been very clearly constitutional and fully legally justified.”
“Our state constitution and state laws grant the Governor broad authority to protect Connecticut residents and families in a public health emergency,” Tong said in an email.
A spokesman for Gov. Lamont declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In a statement issued Monday, CCDL officials charged that law enforcement agencies across the state are refusing to process firearms applications “even while fingerprinting and application processing continues for other programs.”
“While the CCDL understands these are times of unprecedented challenges, many Connecticut residents are being denied their constitutional rights just when they feel the exercise of those rights is most needed,” Holly Sullivan, the group’s president, said in a statement issued Monday.
Lamont may have “broad authority” to act in an emergency, but that doesn’t give him the unlimited power to deny the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right. The Connecticut Citizens Defense League argues that with the suspension of fingerprinting for firearms licenses and ammunition certificates, that’s exactly what the governor has done. At this point, it’s virtually impossible for any resident of the state to become a legal gun owner, because the state isn’t just putting up a maze of red tape for prospective gun owners to navigate. Instead, the state is putting up barriers that are impossible to legally get around.
The lawsuit notes that while fingerprinting services for prospective gun owners have been suspended, you can still obtain a set of your fingerprints if you’re applying to be a long term care provider. Why suspend fingerprinting for those who want to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, but not for those who want to get a job?
In addition to the governor, the CCDL’s litigation also names the police chiefs in several Connecticut localities for refusing to accept fingerprints from several applicants that were already on file. Joseph Coll, who’s one of the named plaintiffs in the case, has already been fingerprinted for his job as a teacher, yet the Vernon Police Department refused to use those fingerprints to process Coll’s pistol permit application. The CCDL highlights several other jurisdictions that also failed to use existing fingerprint records to facilitate the application process and instead simply told applicants that the application process has been indefinitely suspended.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League is asking a federal judge for an injunction blocking Gov. Lamont’s order and forcing the state and local law enforcement agencies to resume fingerprinting gun and ammo license applicants. I have no idea how the judge will ultimately rule, but the fact is that the governor’s order has been in effect for nearly two months, and during that time gun store owners across the country have reporting that the majority of their recent customers have been first-time gun buyers. It’s reasonable to conclude that there are large numbers of Connecticut residents who wish to become gun owners but can’t, purely because the governor’s executive order prevents law enforcement from processing their applications. In my opinion, we’re way past simple regulation of a right, and squarely in infringement territory.