Connecticut Fights to Keep 'Unenforced' Carry Ban in Place

gmsjs90 / Pixabay

When U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton dismissed a challenge to the ban on concealed carry in Connecticut state parks, her main argument was that plaintiff David Nastri didn't have standing to sue because it was unlikely he'd face arrest even if decided to carry a concealed handgun with him while walking the trails. Attorneys for the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection convinced Arterton that though the statute remains on the books, it's not really enforced, so Nastri has no reason to be troubled by the "gun-free zone" status of the state park system. 


Last week the Second Circuit disagreed with Arterton's decision to dismiss the case and revived Nastri's lawsuit. If the law is obsolete and unenforced, as DEEP claims, the easiest way to get rid of the challenge would be for lawmakers to simply repeal the statute. Instead, it looks like DEEP is going to keep fighting to keep the law it claims is never used on the books.

DEEP Director of Communications Will Healy said, "In this most recent Nastri ruling, the federal appeals court applied a recent rule to conclude that the plaintiff can continue on with his litigation. That decision does not go to the merits of his lawsuit. DEEP remains confident that we will prevail, and we will continue protecting all those who use Connecticut's wonderful state parks."

Protecting them how, exactly? As the Second Circuit pointed out in its decision, DEEP contends that there is no “credible threat of enforcement” because state parks are "sparsely patrolled", Nastri hasn't run across any officers in the parks, and he "does not believe anyone noticed he was carrying a handgun in the past." 

If there's no credible threat of enforcement, then why not just repeal the law in question? It doesn't make a lick of sense to keep a law in place if there's no intent to enforce it to some degree or another. And as the Second Circuit noted, the state hasn't disavowed the law. It's defended it.


Far from disavowing enforcement against Nastri, the director of Connecticut’s Environmental Conservation Police testified at a deposition that his department (1) receives calls about persons with firearms in state parks, (2) responds to those calls by sending officers to investigate, and (3) would take enforcement action if its officers found a person with an unauthorized firearm. That easily distinguishes this case from Adam v. Barr, in which we rejected a pre-enforcement challenge because the plaintiff failed to show any “particularize[d]” evidence that the government would enforce a federal drug law against him if he used narcotics for religious purposes.

Connecticut can't have it both ways. If the law isn't enforced, then there's no need for it to remain in effect. If, on the other hand, the law is being enforced, at least to some extent, then Nastri has standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute in federal court. 

If I were a tax-paying Connecticut voter I'd be royally peeved that my hard-earned money was going to defend an unconstitutional law that DEEP contends is "moribund" and unused. Unfortunately, Connecticut lawmakers are busy adding more infringements to the books instead of repealing the laws in place that are repugnant to our fundamental civil rights. The courts are the only viable option at the moment for folks looking to undo the damage caused by the state's anti-gun legislature. Thankfully, the Second Circuit made the right call in reviving Nastri's litigation. Now it's up to Judge Arterton to faithfully apply the text, history, and tradition test to the carry ban in question instead of giving the state an easy way out of defending the indefensible in her courtroom.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member