Connecticut has not expressly preempted local laws in the area of firearms regulation. Connecticut courts also have not found that the legislature has demonstrated an intent to occupy the field of firearms and ammunition regulation. Absent a direct conflict with state law, broad local firearms and ammunition regulation appears possible.
In Dwyer v. Farrell1 the Supreme Court of Connecticut considered whether Connecticut General Statutes section 29-28, which authorizes persons to sell handguns at retail if issued a state permit, preempted a New Haven ordinance that placed further restrictions on persons seeking to sell handguns. The court acknowledged that the existence of a state law does not necessarily preempt a local government from regulating the same subject matter as long as such regulation is consistent with state law.2 The court stated that to determine whether a local ordinance conflicts with state law, the court must review the purpose behind the state law and measure the degree to which the ordinance frustrates achievement of that purpose.3 The court found that the New Haven ordinance frustrated the purpose of section 29-28 by prohibiting an entire class of persons from selling handguns that the state would have allowed.4 The court found that this created an irreconcilable conflict between New Haven’s ordinance and the statute, which rendered the ordinance preempted.5
A similar decision was reached in Kaluszka v. Town of E. Hartford,6 where the court found that the state’s extensive hunting laws preempted a municipal ordinance that regulated the discharge of firearms and therefore had the effect of regulating hunting.
More recently, the Supreme Court of Connecticut in Modern Cigarette, Inc. v. Town of Orange7 discussed the general principles governing preemption. There, the court considered whether state licensing and regulatory standards for cigarette vending machines preempted an ordinance adopted by the Town of Orange to prohibit such machines entirely.8 The court reiterated the basic standards outlined in Dwyer and upheld the ordinance, reasoning that state law did not expressly authorize cigarette vending machines, but instead imposed a series of limitations or prohibitions on their use that allowed for additional local regulation, including an outright prohibition.9 The court also noted that public safety ordinances are given a presumption of validity.10
With specific application to shooting ranges, a municipality has the authority to evaluate and regulate any increase in noise attributable to a physical expansion of an existing firing or shooting range.11 However, a municipality’s noise control ordinance that limits noise in terms of decibel level in the outdoor atmosphere does not apply to any firing or shooting range operating on October 1, 1998, if the standards set forth in the ordinance are inconsistent with Connecticut’s noise pollution control laws (General Statutes Chapter 442) or regulations promulgated thereunder.
For state laws prohibiting local units of government (i.e., cities and counties) from filing certain types of lawsuits against firing ranges, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Connecticut.