Category Archives: Firearms

Pistol Permit Reciprocity in Connecticut (There isn’t any)

Yesterday I wrote about how it is possible in Connecticut for people to be charged with Breach of Peace related to the legal carrying of a firearm. I noted that one must have a valid carry permit to carry a pistol, concealed or openly, on his or her person or in a vehicle. All states except for Vermont, Alaska, Arkansas and Wyoming currently require a pistol permit. Many of these states honor some other states’ permits, meaning that an out-of-state permit-holder can carry in the allowing state without having to obtain that state’s permit. Connecticut however is not one of those states. Connecticut does not have a reciprocity agreement with any other state to honor its permits.

In short, a person cannot carry a pistol on his or her person or in a vehicle in Connecticut without a valid Connecticut permit. The penalty for carrying without a permit, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 29-35 is one to five years of imprisonment, one year of which cannot be suspended unless good cause is shown. That is not a hard mandatory minimum but it is minimum time. The penalty for possessing a weapon in a motor vehicle, which includes a pistol without a permit in a motor vehicle, in violation of Sec. 29-38, is up to three years of imprisonment without any minimum. Both offenses are felonies.

Since people travel and Connecticut is a small state with three neighbors, the logical question is: what if someone with a valid permit from his or her own state travels through Connecticut with firearms in the vehicle? State and federal law allow such transportation to take place. Sec. 29-38d provides

(a) The provisions of sections 29-35 and 29-38 shall not apply to the interstate transportation of firearms through this state in accordance with 18 USC 926A and 927, as amended from time to time, by any person who is not otherwise prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing a firearm. Such person may transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where such person may lawfully possess and carry such firearm through this state to any other place where such person may lawfully possess and carry such firearm provided such transportation is in accordance with subsection (b) of this section.

(b) During the transportation of a firearm through this state as authorized in subsection (a) of this section, such firearm shall be unloaded and neither such firearm nor any ammunition being transported shall be readily accessible or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle. If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the passenger compartment, such firearm shall be unloaded and such firearm and any ammunition being transported shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

(c) No person who is transporting a firearm through this state in accordance with this section may use or carry such firearm or sell, deliver or otherwise transfer such firearm while in this state.

The federal law cited, 18 U.S.C. 926A provides

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

If you plan to go hunting in another state, make sure you know the laws of that state and any other in which you will possess firearms.

While Connecticut does not recognize pistol permits from other states, some states will recognize a Connecticut permit. If you do plan on carrying your weapon in another state, it is imperative to verify the laws and permit requirements in that state as well as those of states you plan on traveling through. States have their own firearms laws and often illegal possession is a strict liability offense with severe penalties.

Breach of Peace Love and Understanding: How Can the Legal Carrying of a Firearm Be a Crime?

Connecticut law is relatively clear on the legality of carrying firearms. A permit is required to carry a pistol on the person and in a motor vehicle. No permit is required to carry a rifle or shotgun (provided the weapon is not one prohibited by state or federal law–e.g. a sawed-off shotgun). With a permit, a pistol may be carried concealed or openly–there is no law against openly carrying a pistol. Yet, as occasionally reported in the newspaper, people who were legally and openly carrying weapons have been arrested and charged not with weapons possession but with Breach of Peace. The Register published an article today on this phenomenon.

In the article Paul Vance of the State Police and Michael Lawlor, the governor’s criminal justice adviser, both state that a person can openly carry a firearm as long as it does not cause “annoyance or alarm.” Rich Burgess of the organization Connecticut Carry disagrees, saying, “The very premise of breach of peace is ‘violent or tumultuous behavior. Since carrying a weapon in public is legal, doing so is exempted from the breach-of-peace statute.”

Since we’re talking about Breach of Peace, let’s take a look at the actual statute: Sec. 53a-181 – Breach of Peace in the 2nd Degree. The statute reads in its entirety (with the most relevant language bolded):

(a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place; or (2) assaults or strikes another; or (3) threatens to commit any crime against another person or such other person’s property; or (4) publicly exhibits, distributes, posts up or advertises any offensive, indecent or abusive matter concerning any person; or (5) in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or (6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do. For purposes of this section, “public place” means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests. (b) Breach of the peace in the second degree is a class B misdemeanor.

Breach of Peace and its cousin Disorderly Conduct are among the broadest, open-ended statutes (along with Risk of Injury and a few others). It does not take much beyond being rowdy to get hit with this charge. Although Sec. 53a-181(a)(1) is the subsection that is applicable for weapons, it neither mentions nor excludes firearms or any kind of weapon. Mr. Burgess is incorrect is saying that carrying firearms is exempted from the statute because it is a legal activity. Many activities that are in themselves legal, such as speaking, are Constitutionally-protected until they are used in a threatening manner.

I know what you’re thinking: what if someone is just carrying a weapon and minding his or her own business and someone who is extra-sensitive to guns sees it and calls the police? Many other people might’ve seen it and not cared a lick. Whether the act constitutes a breach of peace is a question of fact: it is up to a judge or jury to decide the intent of the defendant and if the alleged activity constitutes violent, threatening or tumultuous behavior. So, how does a fact-finder do that? Time to pull up the jury instructions for 53a-181(a)(1). Here is what the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

Element 1 – Intent
The first element is that the defendant
-acted with the intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm. The predominant intent must be to cause what a reasonable person operating under contemporary community standards would consider a disturbance to or impediment of a lawful activity, a deep feeling of vexation or provocation, or a feeling of anxiety prompted by threatened danger or harm.

-recklessly created a risk of causing inconvenience, annoyance or alarm. A person acts “recklessly” with respect to a result or circumstances when (he/she) is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstances exist.

The words “inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” refer to what a reasonable person operating under contemporary community standards would consider a disturbance to or impediment of a lawful activity, a deep feeling of vexation or provocation, or a feeling of anxiety prompted by threatened danger or harm.

Element 2 – Conduct
The second element is that the defendant engaged in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior that actually involved physical violence or portended imminent physical violence.2 The defendant’s conduct must be more than a display of mere bad manners. It must cause or create a risk of causing inconvenience, annoyance or alarm among members of the public.

Element 3 – Public Place
The third element is that the conduct took place in a public place. “Public place” means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests.

The above-bolded language specifies that whether behavior is violent etc. is based on an objective standard–not the subjective feelings of an actual person (such as the one who witnessed the event, a police officer or Mr. Lawlor). The question is essentially would an ordinary person feel threatened by this? Context and circumstances are always key. Carrying a holstered handgun on your belt while you buy a sandwich? Probably not objectively threatening. Walking around pointing at your weapon and winking at people? Possibly threatening. Carrying your hunting rifle into the woods? Seems reasonable and non-threatening to me. Walking near a school with a rifle? I’ll let you think about that one.

Carrying your rifle in preparation for deer-hunting likely isn’t breaching any peace. Doing it at a wedding or while speaking like Christopher Walken just might be.

Is Breach of Peace overused, often as a fallback to make an arrest? I think it is and have had the clients that demonstrate that idea. But it’s hard to say that weapons should be exempt from Breach of Peace because one can–and I’ve had the clients to prove this too–be charged with Breach of Peace without having any weapons. I don’t write the laws but I defend people who are charged with breaking them and it’s tough to defend something as open as Breach of Peace.

Breach of peace? In Charles Bronson’s world, he is making peace.