The National Association for Gun Rights misfired last week in its federal lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s gun laws on behalf of an 84-year-old woman described as owning banned semi-automatic firearms and desiring to buy more.
It turns out that Patricia Brought of New Milford, recruited as a plaintiff to give the out-of-state group standing to sue Connecticut, neither owns firearms, desires to buy them or is interested in leading a challenge to the state.
“I’m not a pistol-packin’ mama,” Brought said.
Without acknowledging the error, the association filed an amended complaint Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Brought is out as the local plaintiff, replaced by Toni Theresa Spera Flanigan of Granby, who declined comment.
Flanigan is not a gun owner. The amended lawsuit says, “She is a member of NAGR. She intends to acquire arms putatively made illegal by the Statutes and but for the Statutes would do so.”
The lawsuit names Gov. Ned Lamont as a defendant, plus the chief state’s attorney and Hartford state’s attorney.
The original lawyer, Christopher Wiest of Crestview, Kentucky, also withdrew Tuesday “for grounds that are warranted under the applicable rules of professional conduct.”
The new lawyer is Barry K. Arrington of Denver, who filed a similar lawsuit in July against the governor of Colorado over that state’s ban of large-capacity magazines, similar to one on the books in Connecticut.
Arrington, Wiest and John J. Radshaw of New Haven, the local counsel in the Connecticut gun case, did not return calls for comment.
The lawsuits are part of a national effort to test gun control laws in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down a New York law that placed strict limits on the ability to carry firearms outside the home.
“These folks have manufactured a controversy,” Attorney General William Tong said. “They’ve manufactured a lawsuit to come and challenge Connecticut’s gun laws.”
Connecticut requires universal background checks to purchase firearms or ammunition and bans the sale of certain firearms, such as the AR-15 and other military-style weapons.
But the state was not one of the five with similar laws to New York’s. Connecticut allows permit holders to carry handguns and other firearms outside the home, either concealed or openly.
Tong said he saw nothing in the court’s ruling in the New York case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, that suggested Connecticut’s gun laws were unconstitutional.
Tong, Lamont and other Democrats staged a campaign event Tuesday pledging they would be a “firewall” against challenges of the sweeping gun law Connecticut adopted after the Sandy Hook School massacre.
“So leave our gun safety laws alone, and they do work,” Lamont said.
The lawsuit gave them an opportunity to revisit the NRA’s endorsement of Lamont’s Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, in the 2018 race. Stefanowski said he did not seek the endorsement this year and supports the Sandy Hook law as currently written.
The Democrats decried the litigation filed last week in Connecticut as the work of an “extremist” group that had been fishing for plaintiffs.
“And now it appears that those efforts have been successful, and they have recruited a plaintiff from Connecticut,” Tong said. “But make no mistake, this is not homegrown litigation. This is not people in Connecticut rising up to assert their rights.”
When he spoke, Tong was unaware that the lawsuit was about to be retooled, due to what Brought described as errors by someone on the association’s legal team after another potential plaintiff, a male gun owner, got cold feet at the 11th hour.
In an interview Tuesday with CT Mirror, Brought said the description of her in the lawsuit as the owner of military-style weapons and large-capacity magazines banned by the Sandy Hook law actually referred to someone else.
“There was another party,” Brought said. “He backed out at the last moment. He had the guns.”
Brought said she informed the lawyers of the error and her desire to exit the case, and they agreed to remove her as plaintiff.
As to how she came to be involved, Brought said she is a supporter of the Second Amendment who fears gun ownership is jeopardized by gun-control laws. She is on certain mailing lists and was asked to participate.
“I make donations to gun rights,” she said. “They send me stuff.”
Brought said she was willing to help, but not as the second plaintiff listed immediately after the National Association for Gun Rights.
“I was willing to put my name on that petition with the understanding I was not number two or number three,” Brought said. Until the suit was filed and it made the news, she was unaware of her status as the only Connecticut plaintiff.
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“My family got very angry with me,” she said.
They were surprised to read she owned weapons and intended to buy more. So was Brought, who feared police might wonder if she had a cache of unregistered weapons in defiance of state law.
(The Sandy Hook law allows residents who owned assault weapons or large-capacity magazines before the ban to keep them, so long as they are registered.)
“I called the police. I know them,” Brought said. “I said, ‘Look, I don’t even have a slingshot.’”
Brought said she once explored gun ownership.
“I took the background check, the gun safety thing. I filled out the papers,” she said, but was dissuaded from going forward. “My family said, ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’”
Mark Pazniokas is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (https://ctmirror.org/ ). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.