The people of Connecticut know first-hand how gun violence can devastate a community. They watched in horror when a shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School used assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines to kill 26 people — including 20 small children. Within months, the Connecticut legislature took immediate action to try to prevent such a tragedy from happening again by passing a law that strengthens the state’s prohibition on assault weapons and bans large capacity ammunition magazines.
In what has become a pattern when they fail to stop laws they don’t like in the political process, the gun lobby filed a lawsuit right after this law was passed, alleging that the law violates the Second Amendment.1 Yesterday, Connecticut’s new gun law was upheld by a federal district court in a victory for smart gun laws that could have reverberations nationwide.
The Law Center and several of our allies supported the defense in this case by filing an amicus brief that argued that the law does not violate the Second Amendment and that the regulation of these military-style weapons is a reasonable public safety measure.
In yesterday’s decision, the court upheld the law in its entirety and rejected the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment challenge. Although the court did find that the law imposed some burden on the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights, the court held that the law left open many other kinds of firearms and magazine the plaintiffs could use for self-defense. Thus, the court found that since the law was reasonably related to the state’s interest in public safety and protecting law enforcement, it was constitutional.
The court’s rejection of the gun lobby’s extreme arguments in this case echos a similar decision in New York last month upholding that state’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. These cases represent major victories because similar lawsuits are pending across the country, including in California, Colorado, Illinois, and Maryland, as part of a concerted effort by the gun lobby to bully state and local governments into not passing these critical public safety laws.
Case information: Shew, et al. v. Malloy,et al., No. 13-00739 (D. Conn., complaint filed May 22, 2013)
At Issue: Challenging the constitutionality of Connecticut’s Post-Newtown Assault Weapon and Large Capacity Magazine Ban. This lawsuit, filed by a gun lobby group and a few individuals, challenges the Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act (“the Act”), which was passed in direct response to the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter at Newtown used an assault weapon and multiple large capacity magazines to kill 26 people, including 20 children, in just five minutes. The Act strengthened Connecticut’s ban on these dangerous weapons by–among other things–broadening the definition of an assault weapon to include guns with characteristics that enable the firing of hundreds of bullets per minute, aid in the commission of mass murders and assaults, or facilitate the weapon’s concealment. The Act also banned the possession of large capacity ammunition magazines, which allow mass shooters to file dozens and dozens of bullets without pausing to reload. This lawsuit makes the radical claim that the Second Amendment protects a “right” to own assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines and that Connecticut’s laws regulating these dangerous weapons (including the Act) are unconstitutional.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief, joined by Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Cleveland School Remembers, argues that the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court and other courts, does not protect a right to own weapons that are designed for a battlefield and have no connection to lawful self-defense in the home. Indeed, every court to have considered challenges to laws banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonald has upheld those laws, including the conservative D.C. Circuit. The Law Center recently filed a similar brief in a case challenging New York’s assault weapon and large capacity ammunition magazine ban.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence applauds President Obama’s strong words in yesterday morning’s press conference announcing that a gun violence task force headed by Vice President Biden will lead to “concrete proposals no later than January.”
On Tuesday, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and 25 other state and national gun violence prevention organizations wrote to President Obama to thank him for speaking out in the wake of last week’s devastating shooting in Newtown, and to urge him to provide the leadership needed for the passage of sensible laws to prevent future tragedies.
Appointing a task force is a critical first step to curbing the flow of guns in to the hands of dangerous people. There are many steps the President can take today – including supporting many bills that are being introduced. Our coalition of gun violence prevention organizations offers support to the administration and Congress.
“We have been greatly encouraged by President Obama’s words since the horrific tragedy in Newtown,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center, which was formed in the wake of an assault weapon massacre at a law firm in San Francisco in 1993. “We appreciate the President’s past expression of support for laws banning assault weapons and requiring background checks on all gun buyers, and are hopeful that his commitment to use the power of this office to reduce gun violence will provide the catalyst needed for the adoption of those laws.”
Read and share our letter to President Obama below.
Following the killing of 26 innocent children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, vigils for the fallen erupted across the country. Over 200 victims of gun violence and activists from the Law Center and other organizations across the country gathered at the White House on Friday to call on President Obama to take action to curb the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
Today in Washington D.C., we joined survivors of gun violence at a vigil at the White House. Together with our colleagues and many concerned citizens from across the country, we insisted that today IS the day that we as Americans stand up and say we’ve had enough.
Earlier today we asked you to stand with us by calling the White House to demand action from President Obama and our elected leaders. As the phone lines close for the weekend, please also express your outrage by signing this petition.
Sign it now and then pass it on. We need to show that the Americans are united in demanding a plan to end the bloodshed – now.
As we all wrestle with our feelings after this horrific event, we think Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have said it best, so we wanted to share this with you:
With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five year-olds.
President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.
Our determination is also stronger than ever. We will continue to tirelessly promote laws that would prevent these kinds of tragedies. We need you, your family members, your friends, and neighbors to all join with us so we CAN enact smart gun laws that save lives.
Sign the petition. Pass it around. Join us in demanding that our leaders defend our safety.
We are devastated by news of the shooting today in Newtown, Connecticut and the unspeakable suffering that is occurring there. We cannot imagine what the families are going through now. We should all be appalled by this and should demand swift action.
The most fundamental duty of our government is to protect our communities, especially our innocent children. Despite mass shootings that have shattered families across the country this year, our leaders have repeatedly failed to do anything to prevent future bloodshed.
We cannot stand for this failure any longer. Our children’s lives depend on it.
Our leaders will keep ducking this issue until they hear from all of us. Call the White House now and demand that President Obama tell us what he plans to do about this epidemic.
Call now! 202-456-1414
President Obama needs to show leadership on this issue. While he spoke today about the need for meaningful action, he has yet to take any real steps toward making us safer. Given the 34 murders with guns that happen every day, the president’s failure to lead is unacceptable.
Call the White House now and demand a plan: 202-456-1414