CT gun rights group takes legal action amid issues with background check system

Photo of Nicholas Rondinone

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a gun rights organization based in Southbury, have asked the federal court to intervene after they say issues with the state’s upgraded background check system has upended gun permitting and purchasing.

The organization first filed the suit two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that orders from the governor had violated constitutional rights by putting a stop to new fingerprinting, which is required in order to get a permit to buy firearms and ammunition.

While a federal judge ordered an injunction in June 2020 requiring that fingerprinting resume, CCDL contends in its latest motion that fingerprint has once again been shut down.

“CCDL believes that only the federal courts can stop the state of Connecticut from its renewed, exacerbated and continuing violation of the Second Amendment rights of its members,” the organization said in a statement.

In an affidavit attached to the motion, Holly Sullivan, the president of CCDL, said she has reviewed numerous police department websites that said fingerprinting has been suspended due to a system upgrade.

The motion seeks a status conference on the matter. The state has yet to respond to the motion.

This latest filing comes as gun store owners, along with a national firearms trade organization, have voiced concern to the state that a recent upgrade to the background check system run by the state police’s Special Licensing and Firearms Unit has essentially halted all firearms purchases and transfers.

“Connecticut retailer members are extremely frustrated by the lack of adequate coordination and planning and wholly inadequate roll-out of the “upgraded” system producing extended outages,” said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president for government and public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation in a letter to James Rovella, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “As you have come to learn, the timing of this upgrade is ill advised because the record number of sales continuing to occur throughout the state.”

The system upgrade went online last week after the system was shut down for several days starting on July 9.

CCDL acknowledges the issue with the system upgrade in the latest motion, saying in the filing that “it is no exaggeration to say that the entire firearms permitting and purchasing system in Connecticut has collapsed.”

In the motion, CCDL said that prior to July 9, the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit was processing up to 600 firearm sales a day, but are “only a tiny fraction of that now.”

Some gun store owners interviewed this week said they keep calling the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit but cannot get through.

When asked about the issues, Brian Foley, an aide to Rovella, said: “This is an unprecedented volume of transactions on top of a transition from an antiquated system, and our staff learning a new system starting last week. We are doing the best we can, and we have added additional staff to work with retailers.”