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Conn. Bar Association Won't Back Gun Law Defense After All

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 25, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ah, a bar association which doesn't take divisive stances that are likely to irk its members.

Connecticut lawmakers passed some pretty strict gun laws after the Newton tragedy. In Shew v. Malloy, a federal district court upheld the constitutionality of these new gun laws, and an appeal is working its way through the Second Circuit.

Connecticut's bar association initially voted to join the defense of the laws, but after a wee bit of backlash and a referendum, that's not happening any longer.

Maybe We Should've Voted First

According to the Hartford Courant, back in July, the bar association's house of delegates voted 34 to 15 in favor of teaming up with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to defend the law. Two weeks later, a petition submitted by lawyers opposed to the law forced a rare referendum.

The results were anything but clear: 734 in favor of defending the law, 729 against it.

"In light of the fact that this difference is less than 1 percent of those voting and considerably less than that as a percentage of our entire membership, I am ruling that the referendum vote will be called as tied," Connecticut Bar Association president Mark Dubois said. "I do not feel that the best interests of the CBA would be served going forward without a clear and empirically defensible result.

"Accordingly, I have decided not to sign the brief prepared by the Brady Center in support of the appellee in the matter of Shew v. Malloy."

Don't Divide Your Members

The issue here isn't pro-gun or anti-gun -- it's when an association should get involved in matters that go beyond the practice of law. Bar associations should strive to represent the interests of all of their members, or at least the vast majority of them, and here, there clearly wasn't widespread support for contributing to the defense of the law.

We made a similar point a couple of years ago when the American Bar Association came out in favor of "reasonable" restrictions on guns, including an assault weapons ban. There was an immediate backlash on the ABA Journal's website, but interestingly enough, the support for gun control wasn't new -- the ABA has taken that stance for decades.

The point of these bar associations is to promote the advancement and ethics of the legal profession, not to take stances on divisive issues.

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