Lawsuit: New gun ban violates rights of people with disabilities

A group representing people with disabilities is filing a legal challenge to the state's expanded assault weapons ban, arguing that the new law prohibits features that make guns adaptable for people with physical limitations, taking away their rights to use firearms.

The law, passed last week in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, bans the sale of dozens of weapons, some by name and some if they have certain features. It covers the AR-15, a popular rifle, and any semiautomatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine and have either a folding stock, pistol grip or forward grip.

The complaint argues that people with disabilities "require adjustable or customizable firearms built on the AR-15 platform, or other semiautomatic weapons with certain of the prohibited features, such as pistol grips, forward grips, and folding or telescoping stocks, in order to safely and effectively exercise their fundamental right to bear arms."

The lawsuit's plaintiff, Scott Ennis, is a New London resident with hemophilia A, a bleeding disorder that causes joint damage. Ennis said he's unable to rotate his palm upward, and needs to use a forward vertical grip to hold a firearm.

"Now that's banned," he said. "That's a big problem."

North Stonington attorney Scott D. Camassar, who represents Ennis, said the lawsuit will be filed in New London Superior Court in the coming days. It seeks an injunction to prevent the law from being implemented, and asks the court to declare that the law violates the plantiffs' rights.

Jaclyn M. Falkowski, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the office is reviewing the complaint and will respond in court.

“However, it is our belief that this legislation is lawful, and the Office of the Attorney General is prepared to vigorously defend the law against this and any other potential court challenge,” she said.

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said the legal challenge was not a surprise.

"We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the Attorney General's office to defend it," he said. "Let's not forget that this has happened before. In prior instances where Connecticut has passed common sense restrictions on firearms, there have been challenges. They have all been unsuccessful."

In addition to Ennis, the lawsuit is being brought on behalf of Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights, an organization Ennis founded. He said it has about 2,700 members in Connecticut, many of whom joined in the past month and a half.

The debate about guns often doesn't include specific issues related to people with disabilities, Ennis said, but he noted that there are many people with disabilities who use firearms, including many wounded veterans.

Prohibiting a person from using a gun with both a forward grip and a collapsible stock -- which allows you to hold a rifle closer to yourself -- doesn't affect its lethality, Ennis said.

"There's no difference if a disabled individual has a collapsible stock and a vertical grip than if he had just a collapsible stock," he said.

Other gun-rights groups are also likely to challenge the law.

Follow Mirror health reporter Arielle Levin Becker on Twitter @ariellelb.

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