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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052
tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

December 1997

The court challenge to Public Act 94-1

A November decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the revocation of a pistol permit for a misdemeanor conviction that occurred years before the statutes were changed.

The Supreme Court case was the last step in a long attempt to have the statute, as revised by Public Act 94-1, overturned by the courts. PA 94-1 was the act that made it mandatory that pistol permits be denied to individuals convicted of any of 11 misdemeanors. Previously, the statute mentioned only felony convictions.

Under the revised statute, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) began not only denying new permits but also revoking old permits of persons who had the misdemeanor convictions. One result was an immediate increase in the number of persons filing petitions for pardons, to remove the convictions from their records.

A man named Austin Taylor took a different route. After his permit was revoked by DPS for a 1991 conviction for one of the 11 misdemeanors, he appealed the revocation to the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners. The board considered its hands tied by the new statute and upheld the revocation. Taylor filed a court appeal.

Taylor’s attorney, Roy Ward, based his argument on several points. As a general rule, a revised statute should be interpreted only to apply to future cases, he said. He also argued that if the statute were applied to an individual who already had one of the misdemeanor convictions, then revocation of the permit would be a new and additional punishment for behavior that occurred before PA 94-1 became law. Therefore the revised statute should be unconstitutional under the "ex post facto" principle.

At the first level, the court appeal was decided against Taylor by the Superior Court. Earlier this year, the case went to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The new decision (Taylor v. Kirschner, 243 Conn. 250) is remarkably brief. It contains no mention of the constitutional (ex post facto) question. The decision simply says that based on remarks made by some of the legislators in 1994, and based on some of the other provisions of PA 94-1, the Supreme Court held that the legislature intended the act to apply to all permit-holders, including those whose misdemeanor convictions predate the act.

Is there a lesson here? You bet. As with the court challenge to the "assault-weapons" ban, the solution lies with the legislature, not the courts. That means that if you want to change the situation, you have to keep an eye on your legislators, help good candidates defeat bad ones, and vote on Election Day. Any gun owner who disagrees has his head in the sand.

Copyright 1997 by Ralph D. Sherman

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