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Gun rights supporters sue Connecticut after governor signs bill with open carry ban

Michael Saechang
Creative Commons

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday signed the most wide-ranging state gun control bill since a 2013 law passed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, sparking an immediate lawsuit by gun rights supporters seeking to block a ban on open carrying and other parts of the new law.

It's the latest legal fight over Connecticut's gun laws, which are some of the strictest in the country, since the U.S. Supreme Court last year expanded gun rights and opened several states' laws to challenges. The landmark 2013 gun law and others also are being contested in court.

“This bill that I just signed takes smart and strategic steps to strengthen the laws in Connecticut to prevent tragedy from happening,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. ”The inaction of Congress on critical legislation to keep Americans safe requires each state to act individually."

Idaho-based We the Patriots USA, a group that bills itself as a protector of gun and other rights, filed a lawsuit in federal court late Tuesday with other plaintiffs in an effort to block the law, the group's lawyer said.

“Individuals have a right to bear arms under both the state and federal constitutions,” the lawyer, Norm Pattis, wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The state constitution guarantees a right to protect oneself. No one sacrifices that right by walking out of their front door. In an era of defunding police, permissive bail reform and liberal clemency, folks depend on the right to self-defense more than ever.”

The Connecticut Senate gave final legislative approval to the bill on Saturday. The measure passed the Senate 24-11, following a 96-51 House vote last week.

Besides banning open carrying of firearms, the law would increase bail and toughen probation and parole for what officials called a narrow group of people with repeated serious gun offenses. It also would prohibit selling more than three handguns within 30 days to any one person, with some exceptions for instructors and others.

Other provisions include expanding Connecticut’s current assault weapon ban to include some other similar weapons; stiffening penalties for possession of large-capacity magazines; expanding safe-storage rules to more settings; and adding some domestic violence crimes to the list of disqualifications for having a gun.

It also expands a ban on retail sales of certain semiautomatic rifles to anyone under 21 and increases penalties against gun dealers for violating state law.

The lawsuit filed by We the Patriots USA says the new law violates 2nd Amendment gun rights, particularly the ban on open carrying and limiting purchases to no more than three guns within a 30-day period.

Democrats, who control both chambers of the legislature, backed the legislation, while Republican lawmakers complained it was another bill that punished law-abiding gun owners instead of targeting criminals who commit gun violence.

The 2013 law passed after the Sandy Hook shooting, which killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, added more than 100 firearms to the state's 1993 assault weapons ban, prohibited ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds and created a dangerous weapon offender registry. Another lawsuit is challenging that law.

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