After Supreme Court ruling, gun rights groups challenge blue state laws

FILE – Connecticut Attorney General William Tong speaks outside the Connecticut Supreme Court during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Chris Ehrmann, File)

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year striking down a New York law limiting the number of people who would be eligible to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm has set off a new round of legal challenges aimed at dismantling gun control measures in some of the nation’s most liberal states and cities.

The high court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, ordered lower courts to reconsider several previous cases under a new legal framework. Judges should consider whether a law is consistent with the Second Amendment, rather than whether the law enhances public safety.

Gun rights groups have launched new challenges in previous cases where they had lost, including against measures in New Jersey and California that limit the size of firearm magazines and bans on assault weapons in states such as California, New York and Delaware. In at least five cases, judges have blocked existing laws, citing the Bruen precedent.

Last month, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League and the Second Amendment Foundation sued to block a state ban on semiautomatic rifles, like the AR-15, enacted in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

In a statement, Holly Sullivan, the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the Supreme Court’s June decision had “opened the door to this challenge.”

“Like those defending the New York statute stricken down in Bruen, anti-gun officials here in Connecticut trumpet their laws as being the harshest in the country,” Sullivan said. “Quite clearly, the recent Supreme Court decision meets Connecticut’s harshness with rebuke in support of individual and inalienable rights.”

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) was among backers of gun safety measures who warned at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen that a new wave of litigation would target those laws.

“This latest threat is disturbing, but not surprising,” Tong said in a statement after the Connecticut lawsuit was filed. “We will not allow weapons of war back into our schools, our houses of worship, our grocery stores, and our communities.”

But gun rights backers have scored recent wins in court. A federal judge blocked a Delaware law restricting the possession of untraceable firearms. Local laws in Colorado barring so-called assault weapons were put on hold. And a district court judge in Texas blocked a law barring adults under 21 years of age from carrying handguns in public.

In New York last week, a federal judge blocked several major provisions of a bill adding new restrictions on those who sought a concealed carry permit — a measure passed only months ago in response to the original Supreme Court decision.

A second challenge to another provision of New York’s latest bill has come from a group of churches. A provision of the new bill bars carrying weapons in what it calls sensitive areas — among them, houses of worship.

“In an ideal world, churches and congregants could focus on worshiping the Lord and loving their neighbors without concerning themselves with matters of safety and security. Unfortunately, the reality of church shootings in the U.S. reminds us that this is not an ideal world,” said Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. “Some churches find it necessary to allow law-abiding persons to carry firearms during services so that their congregations are protected in the event of a church attack.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said Monday her office had appealed the judge’s decision blocking the new state law.

“This common-sense gun control legislation is critical in our state’s effort to reduce gun violence,” James said in a statement.