Gun rights group sues police agencies over permit delays
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A gun rights group and four citizens have sued the police chiefs of four Connecticut cities claiming officials have effectively ended the ability of residents to get gun permits by intentionally and illegally slowing the licensing process by several months.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League announced Tuesday that it had filed a lawsuit in federal court against the chiefs of Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury, saying they are violating people’s constitutional rights including the rights to bear arms and to due process.
“These cities are notorious for violating their residents’ constitutional rights by excessively delaying the application process,” Holly Sullivan, president of the CCDL, said in a statement. “The CCDL is standing up for the residents of these cities, many of whom are minorities fighting for their right to keep and bear arms for personal protection.”
Hartford officials said Tuesday that they were working on providing a public response to the lawsuit. A message seeking comment was left for Waterbury police officials.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, in a statement, criticized the CCDL for opposing gun safety legislation in the past and noted a 14-year-old boy was shot to death in the city last week. Acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez said the police department is mindful of people’s constitutional gun rights.
“However, we are also operating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which requires appropriate safety measures,” Dominguez said. “The New Haven Police Department is working diligently and with new protocols that will help facilitate the processing of pistol permit applications, but is also focused on its core mission to keep our community safe.”
Bridgeport officials declined to comment, saying they had not yet thoroughly reviewed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is seeking court orders for the four departments to change their rules and policies so permits can be timely issued, as well as punitive damages and legal fees.
According to the lawsuit, Hartford resident Orel Johnson applied at the city police department in June for a municipal firearm permit, which is required to apply for a state pistol permit. Only after obtaining a state permit can residents legally possess firearms.
Johnson said he was directed to put his name on a list and police officials would call him when they were ready to accept his application. He said Hartford police still haven’t taken his application, despite his numerous follow-up calls to them.
In New Haven, Shaquanna Williams said city police refused to take her application for a municipal firearm permit on Aug. 18 and gave her an appointment in March 2022 to submit her application.
Anne Cordero said she has been trying to submit her application for a local firearm permit to Bridgeport police since last year. City police told her in June to sign up for an appointment to submit her application, with the first available appointment being in late January 2022, the lawsuit says.
Jamie Eason submitted his gun permit application to Waterbury police on Aug. 17 and was told it would take 11 months to process, despite state law limiting the permit processing times to no more than eight weeks, according to the lawsuit.
The CCDL is represented by lawyers Doug Dubitsky and Craig Fishbein, who also are Republican state representatives.
Last year, the group sued Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and several local police officials over the coronavirus-related suspension of fingerprinting services needed to submit gun permit applications.
Local police resumed fingerprinting soon afterward and a federal judge ordered the state to do the same, saying people’s gun rights were being violated. A federal appeals court ruled the lawsuit’s claims moot in July, saying the state resumed fingerprinting shortly after the judge’s order was issued.