Colonial-era muskets dominate hearing over handgun ban in state parks

The state currently bans people from carrying guns for protection in state parks.

John Craven

May 9, 2023, 4:51 PM

Updated 378 days ago


What do 18th century muskets have to do with allowing handguns in Connecticut state parks? It turns out, a lot.
Testimony about Colonial-era gun laws dominated testimony on Tuesday, as a federal judge heard a legal challenge to a firearms ban in state parks.
David Mastri, an attorney and financial planner in Cheshire, filed the lawsuit.
“I never knew this existed until I was taking this hunter safety class,” Nastri told News 12 in January. “And when I saw it, I recognized it as being grossly unconstitutional.”
On Tuesday, Nastri told the judge he’s carried a concealed Glock handgun for 30 years for self-defense. Nastri said he wants to carry in state parks because of a rise in crime along the Farmington River Canal Trail.
“It made me more committed to be able to defend myself in those areas,” he testified.
Nastri is seeking an injunction barring the state from enforcing the firearms ban as his legal challenge plays out. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.
For two hours, testimony centered on how firearms were regulated in public spaces, like town greens and parks, during the 18th and 19th centuries. That’s because a recent Supreme Court ruling sharply limited where firearms can be restricted. The court rules that current gun laws must be rooted in an historical basis.
Dr. Saul Cornell of Fordham University, a nationally-recognized Second Amendment expert and gun control supporter, testified that he believes Connecticut’s law passes the new constitutional test.
“Virtually from the very beginning, parks banned firearms,” he said. “Because of the Supreme Court's Bruen decision last spring, everything about American gun policy now sort of revolves around what people did with muskets.”
Nastri’s case is one of several challenges to Connecticut’s strict gun laws filed since last year’s Supreme Court ruling.
At Silver Sands State Park in Milford, visitors had mixed opinions.
“On the Beach? I wouldn't carry a gun on the beach,” said beachgoer Maria Aurigemma. But Elizabeth Enochs of Milford said, “I think people have a right to defend themselves if they're qualified.”
One man suggested a compromise: only ban open carrying of firearms.
“With all the shootings going on in the country right now, you just don't need that,” said John McMahon. “So, if you're licensed – if you have a permit to carry – just keep it concealed.” Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed banning open carry in any location, not just parks.
The hearing continues on Wednesday. It's not clear when the judge will issue a ruling on Nastri’s request for an injunction.

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