Federal lawsuit filed over the dumbest 'gun-free zone' in Connecticut

Federal lawsuit filed over the dumbest 'gun-free zone' in Connecticut
Mark Humphrey

Actually, I guess it’s more accurate to call it the dumbest “sensitive place” in Connecticut because guns aren’t actually banned there, even though lawful concealed carry is prohibited.

I had no idea that concealed carry is banned in all of Connecticut’s state parks, at least until I ran across news of the federal lawsuit filed by David Nastri, who’s taking on the bizarre ban and asking the courts to issue an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is in charge of managing the state park system. Nastri’s argument, as made by attorney Cameron Atkinson, is simple (and accurate): there’s simply no longstanding historical tradition to barring concealed carry in a park setting, especially when hunters can bring their guns onto park land to hunt for small game (in-season, of course) or for hunter’s ed courses.

“Connecticut’s prohibition is blatantly unconstitutional and defies common sense,” Atkinson said. “Every year, it welcomes hundreds, if not thousands, of hunters into state parks and forests, and it maintains four recreational shooting ranges in state parks and forests. Each of those activities results in tens of thousands of shots fired in state parks and forests.”

“It is nonsensical for the DEEP to claim that it is protecting public safety by prohibiting thousands of law-abiding and exemplary citizens such as Nastri from carrying handguns for self-defense. but giving recreational shooters and hunters free reign to bring much more powerful firearms into state parks and forests,” Atkinson continued. “We are extremely confident that the federal courts faithfully applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions will agree with us.”

It should, but honestly, it’s a bit ridiculous that the Court should even have to weigh in here. The ban doesn’t make a lot of sense, either from a constitutional or pragmatic perspective, given that a violation of the ban results in a $35 fine and a 24-hour prohibition on returning to the park. Is that really likely to dissuade violent criminals from bringing a gun into a park to aid in a robbery or a carjacking in a parking lot? Of course not. Frankly, I’m not convinced it’s all that effective in preventing peaceable gun owners who possess a carry license from doing so, either. If I was genuinely concerned about my safety, I’d run the risk of a fine and ejection and carry my firearm inside the state park. That’s a fairly painless act of civil disobedience, all things considered.

But it shouldn’t have to be an act of disobedience in the first place, which is why Nastri has filed suit.

Nastri, who Atkinson describes as an Afghanistan combat veteran and longtime financial planner who received his law degree in 2018 and donated a kidney to a local school teacher in 2001 to save her life, uses the state’s parks on an occasional basis, hiking Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and Naugatuck State Park with his girlfriend.

If the couple needed help from first responders, it could take 30 minutes or more, Atkinson said in the lawsuit. The Bruen ruling and the Second Amendment “requires the court to put a stop to Connecticut depriving its citizens of he most popular means of self-defense where it is undoubtedly the hardest for first responders to protect them,” the lawsuit stated.

Attorney General William Tong, whose office has the responsibility of defending the ban, told reporter Lisa Backus that while he hasn’t seen the actual complaint, “more guns in more public places is not the answer.”

Well, if the question is, “How do you respect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens?” then that actually is the answer…at least if those law-abiding citizens want to exercise their right to bear arms in public for self-defense. Tong’s soundbite won’t go far in an actual court of law, and I doubt that the AG is going to bring the judge assigned to the case any true historical analogs that support the ban in state parks. Nastri, on the other hand, has a pretty strong argument, and one that will hopefully be persuasive enough to lead to an injunction in the very near future.