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Police forbid Connecticut gun activist from ‘soliciting’ on DESPP grounds

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An officer of a Constitution State gun rights group says he was ordered Tuesday morning to stop passing out business cards to gun owners waiting in line to register guns and magazines in compliance with a new state law. Lenny Benedetto, a founding member and Vice President of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, says he was threatened with arrest outside the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection in Middletown if he continued inviting those in the queue to learn more about his organization and how they could join and support the group’s lawsuit against the new law.

“I got there around 8:30 this morning and during the time I was there handed out over 400 CCDL cards to people on the sidewalk waiting to enter the building. I also talked to them and told them about our group, why it was important to join, and especially about and our commitment to fighting the new law in court,” Benedetto told Gun Rights Examiner in a telephone interview this afternoon. “After about three hours, a State Police officer emerged from the building and approached me.

That officer, Benedetto says was “Lt. Cooke.”

This columnist checked the DESPP personnel directory and found a Lt. Eric A. Cooke, identified in media reports as Commanding Officer for Special Licensing and Firearms with the Connecticut State Police. Benedetto confirmed this was the same officer.

“Lt. Cooke walked up to me and told me what I was doing was considered solicitation, and that I could not solicit on state property, which the sidewalk was on,” Benedetto claimed.”He also told me I could not approach people in the parking lot, either.

“When I asked if I would be arrested if I continued, he told me ‘You could put it that way,’” Benedetto reported.

This column has approached Lt. Cooke for his comment, including leaving a voice mail and sending him an email that asked him if Benedetto’s account matches his recollection, and what statute the CCDL representative could have been charged with violating had he not obeyed official orders to leave. At this writing, several hours later, no response has been received.

For his part, Benedetto is seeking advice of counsel to determine if the order to cease passing out business cards was lawful, and has contacted attorney Martha A. Dean about the incident.

UPDATE: See my latest GUNS Magazine "Rights Watch" column: The Unconstitutional State.

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When it comes to gun laws, the antis love them so much they’d like to make a patchwork quilt out of them. The latest GUNS Magazine "Rights Watch" column is online, and you can read it before the issue hits the stands. Click here to read "Preemptive Strike.”

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