A federal judge has dismissed a gun industry group lawsuit challenging a wide-ranging firearms law passed by Connecticut in response to the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven ruled Monday that the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. does not have legal standing to challenge how the legislature and governor approved the law in April.
The foundation sued Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, legislative leaders and other officials in July, claiming the “emergency” legislation was approved illegally without proper public input, without time for adequate review by lawmakers and without an explanation of why the usual legislative process needed to be bypassed.
The law, which expanded a ban on assault weapons and prohibits large-capacity ammunition magazines, still faces other legal challenges by gun rights advocates.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is considering whether to appeal Hall’s ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, said Lawrence Keane, the foundation’s senior vice president and general counsel.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Keane said Tuesday. “The legislature voted on a 139-page bill that they never read, and we were denied our First Amendment right to advocate for changes in the actual bill that was voted on.”
The nonprofit foundation represents the interests of more than 9,500 federally licensed firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well as companies that manufacture, distribute and sell shooting and hunting-related goods and services. More than 200 of its members are in Connecticut. It also represents sportsmen’s associations, gun clubs and shooting ranges.
Hall, citing legal precedent, ruled that although foundation members may have been harmed financially by the law, there is no “logical nexus” between that harm and the lawsuit’s allegations.
“That injury, however, does not make NSSF — or any other member of the public aggrieved only incidentally by procedurally defective legislation — into a proper party to challenge the defects in legislative process,” Hall wrote. “Gun control legislation passed without the alleged procedural defects would result in identical injuries.”
The office of state Attorney General George Jepsen released a statement calling the measures “entirely appropriate and lawful — both procedurally and substantively.” The office pledged to continue defending the legislation.
Connecticut’s bill originally stemmed from a legislative task force charged with reviewing the state’s gun laws, mental health care and school security following the Dec. 14 school shooting that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead. Those recommendations were passed onto the top leaders of the General Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, who ultimately crafted a compromise bill behind closed doors that was approved on bipartisan votes by the House and Senate and signed by Malloy.
The bill was designated as “emergency certified” and therefore bypassed public hearings and committee votes.