The Connecticut Constitution provides: "Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state." Article 1, Section 15. This provision is less ambiguous than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, although the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right.
Who Can Purchase a Gun? Is a Permit Required?
A permit is required to purchase a handgun. You must be 21 or older. For Connecticut residents, getting a gun permit is a two-step process involving both local officials and the State Police. See Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 29-28a et seq. Permit applicants must complete a form to the police chief (or other local official if applicable) who issues a temporary 60-day permit. They must provide information about themselves and any criminal record, and be fingerprinted for the national criminal history records check. A fee is required. The local official must find that the applicant (1) is suitable to obtain a permit, (2) is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms, (3) wants a handgun for lawful purposes, and (4) meets other criteria in Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 29-28, including completion of an appropriate safety training course. When the official issues the permit, the State Dept of Public Safety is notified, which then must determine whether to issue the State permit.
Who Can Possess a Gun?
Permits are not required for the possession of rifles, shotguns or handguns. To lawfully possess a handgun, a person must be 21 years of age and cannot have been convicted of a felony; convicted as a delinquent of a serious juvenile offense which includes illegal possession of a controlled substance, negligent homicide, third degree assault, first degree reckless endangerment, second degree unlawful restraint, rioting, or second degree stalking; discharged from custody within the preceding 20 years after acquittal by reason of mental disease or defect; confined by court order for mental illness within the preceding 12 months; subject to a restraining or protective order involving physical force; or an illegal alien. Convicted felons cannot lawfully possess any firearm.
Who Can Carry a Gun?
A permit to carry a pistol or revolver is required to carry a handgun, openly or concealed, on one's person or in a vehicle. Note, however, the Connecticut Board of Firearms Permit Examiners (which reviews permit denials and revocations) has stated that "every effort should be made to ensure that no gun is exposed to view or carried in a manner that would tend to alarm people who see it."
A permit is required to carry a handgun outside one's home (even if one is on his own property) or in any place of business in which one is an employee rather than an owner or operator. A permit is also required to transport a handgun between one's home and place of business, or to/from a range for target shooting. See Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 29-35. Permit holders are required to have their permit on their person when carrying a gun.
Can a Permit be Revoked?
Yes. A permit to carry may be revoked for cause if the issuing authority determines that the permit holder is no longer a suitable person to carry a handgun having been convicted of a felony or specified misdemeanor, or upon the occurrence of an event that would disqualify the holder from being issued a license, such a being subject to a protective order. See Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 29-32.
Does Connecticut Have a "Castle Doctrine"? Or "Stand-Your-Ground" Laws?
Connecticut recognizes the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine and "stand-your-ground" laws are defenses to charges of criminal homicide. The Castle Doctrine is a common law doctrine providing that individuals have no duty to retreat when in his or her home (their "castle") and may use reasonable force, including deadly force, to defend his or her property, person, or another person. Outside of one's "castle," however, an individual has a duty to retreat, if able to do so, before using reasonable force to defend oneself or other.
"Stand-your-ground" laws remove the common law requirement to retreat outside of one's "castle," allowing an individual to use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat. Connecticut does not have a stand-your-ground law. Connecticut law specifically requires individuals outside of their home to retreat, if able to do so, before using reasonable force.
When Is Deadly Force Justified?
Under Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 53a-19(a): "a person is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of physical force, and he may use such degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose; except that deadly physical force may not be used unless the actor reasonably believes that such other person is (1) using or about to use deadly physical force, or (2) inflicting or about to inflict great bodily harm." The statute also states that "A person is not justified in using deadly physical force...if he or she knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety (1) by retreating, except that the actor shall not be required to retreat if he or she is in his or her dwelling ... or place of work and was not the initial aggressor," or certain other exceptions, see ? 53a-19(b); of if he provokes the use of force.
Under What Circumstances Can Police Seize Guns?
Police can seize guns pursuant to warrant if there is probable cause to believe that a person in possession of guns poses a risk of imminent harm to himself or others. See Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 29-38c.
Is Negligent Storage a Crime?
A person is guilty of criminally negligent storage of a firearm when he or she improperly stores a firearm and a minor obtains the firearm and causes the injury or death of himself or any other person. Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 53a-217a. The appropriate means of securing a firearm depends of the circumstances, including the age of the child(ren) in the house. Conn. Gen. Stat. ? 29-37i states that: No person shall store or keep any loaded firearm on any premises under his control if he knows or reasonably should know that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor unless such person (1) keeps the firearm in a securely locked box or other container or in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or (2) carries the firearm on his person or within such close proximity thereto that he can readily retrieve and use it as if he carried it on his person. A "minor" means anyone under 16.
What is an Assault Weapon?
Gen. Stat. ? 53-202a defines "Assault weapon" as "Any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user," or any of the makes and models specified in subsection (1), or firearms that meet certain specified conditions. For example, "a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least two of the following: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and a grenade launcher.
Additional resources provided by the author
Additional information can be found at http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/law/firearms.htm.
Please note that I am not a criminal defense attorney. My interest in firearms law is academic, from a constitutional perspective. If you need a criminal defense lawyer for a gun-related charge, I can refer you to other experienced counsel.