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State’s Right to Slow Gun Sales During Pandemic Upheld by 2nd Circuit

July 30, 2021 by Dan McCue
Semi-automatic handguns on display in a gun shop. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday tossed a legal challenge that claimed Connecticut violated citizens’ 2nd Amendment right when it curtailed fingerprinting services during the pandemic.

The Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League and six state residents sued Gov. Ned Lamont and the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection in 2020, alleging they violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights with an executive order allowing temporary suspension of fingerprinting services for firearm permits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the outbreak, those who wanted to buy guns needed to be fingerprinted and then to file a request through an automated phone system. That system stopped functioning after fingerprinting services were sidelined.

A lower court ruled in favor of the League and its fellow plaintiffs, and ordered the fingerprinting to resume immediately, but the state quickly appealed, leading to the latest controversy.

On Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit said the lower court got its decision wrong, and that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case.

“Our Constitution is clear, the governor has broad authority to protect Connecticut families during a public health emergency,” Attorney General William Tong said. “The Second Circuit Court of Appeals got this decision right—these plaintiffs had no standing and Gov. Lamont’s orders since the onset of the pandemic in March have been lawful and justified.”

The court found that none of the individual plaintiffs had sought fingerprinting services at the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection headquarters during the pandemic, and had instead sought such services at local municipalities.

The 2nd Circuit agreed with the state’s arguments that the individuals who had gotten fingerprinted from their respective towns no longer had any controversy and their claims were moot.

With regard to the CCDL, the Appeals Court also agreed with the state that it lacked standing as an organization. 

Instead, the court found that the organization is an advocacy group whose core functions and mission involve litigating Second Amendment claims.

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