Last Updated: May 7, 2017
Disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
The definitive guide to the gun laws of Connecticut.
As one of the states that restricts both the type of rifle and magazines you can have, there are lots of things to keep in mind when it comes to being a law-abiding gun owner.
We’ll go over what you need to do to buy a gun in the state, and all the rules on what to do with the gun once you’ve taken it home with you.
Buying a Handgun
In Connecticut, it takes a couple steps before you are eligible to buy a handgun.
To buy a handgun, you must:
- Present a eligibility certificate for pistols and revolvers;
- Be 21 or older;
- Provide a state ID; and
- Have a background check performed by a licensed gun dealer.
The First Step Is the Hardest
The eligibility certificate is a purchase permit that all potential buyers of handguns must obtain from the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit (SLFU) before either a licensed firearms dealer or a private seller will be allowed to sell the handgun.
The process to get the permit does take some time, since part of the application requires you to show proof of having taken a firearms safety course. You’ll want to make sure you have everything in order and have your permit in hand before you run off to the gun store.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you’ve also got a permit to carry, then that will work in place of the eligibility certificate also.
Once you’ve got the permit in hand, it’s a straightforward trip to your local gun store to pick up that shiny 1911 you’ve had your eye on.
Even if you decide to purchase your handgun from a private seller instead of your local gun store, you’ll still need to stop by the gun store anyway. Every firearm transfer must have a background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer, or a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL).
Connecticut goes one step further, and each firearm sale actually needs to have authorization from the SLFU. Essentially, the state tracks all firearms sales between individuals, whether you buy it from a gun store, gun show, or just your buddy selling off that Sig he’s only put 200 rounds through.
If you want to sell your handgun, you’ll also have to get a separate permit to do so, and get authorization from the SLFU for the sale.
But There’s Hope!
For those of you under 21, you can still temporarily use a handgun, for target shooting, as long as you are under the immediate supervision of a person who is permitted to possess a handgun. This means your parents (or just your 21+ friends!) can let you try out their handguns at the range so you’ll know exactly which guns to buy on your 21st birthday!
With all of the requirements to buy a handgun, Connecticut also has a few conditions that would prohibit you from buying a handgun completely.
You are prohibited from buying a handgun if you:
- Were convicted of a felony;
- Were convicted as a delinquent of a serious juvenile offense which includes illegal possession of a controlled substance, negligent homicide, third degree assault, first degree reckless endangerment, second degree unlawful restraint, rioting, or second degree stalking;
- Were discharged from custody within the previous 20 years after acquittal by reason of mental illness or impairment;
- Were confined by court order for mental illness within the preceding 12 months;
- Are subject to a restraining or protective order involving physical force; or
- Are an illegal resident.
Buying a Long Gun
Buying a long gun like an AR-15 or shotgun involves a similar process to buying a handgun, but there are a few big twists to be careful of.
To buy a long gun, you must:
- Present an eligibility certificate for the purchase of long guns;
- Be 18 or older;
- Provide valid ID; and
- Have a background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer.
The same rules for private sales of handguns apply to sales of long guns.
The only disqualifier for owning a long gun is if you have been convicted of a felony.
In Connecticut, certain firearms are considered “assault weapons” and are illegal to buy or own.
So What is Considered an “Assault Weapon”?
A rifle is considered an “assault weapon” if it is a:
- Semi-automatic centerfire rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine, and has at least one of:
- A folding or telescoping stock;
- A weapon grip that allows for any finger other than the trigger finger to be below any portion of the action when firing;
- A forward pistol grip;
- A flash suppressor;
- A grenade launcher; or
- A flare launcher.
- Semi-automatic centerfire rifle with an overall length of less than 30 inches
- Semi-automatic centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine, capable of accepting more than 10 rounds
Basically, any carbine with standard parts would be considered an assault weapon under this definition.
Now, if you think you can get around the assault weapon ban with a pistol caliber carbine, think again.
An “assault weapon” is any
- Semi-automatic pistol that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least one of:
- The ability to accept a magazine in a location outside of the pistol grip;
- A flash suppressor;
- A forward pistol grip;
- A silencer;
- A second grip;
- A barrel shroud other than a slide; or
- A magazine that accepts more than 10 rounds.
- Semi-automatic pistol with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.
Some shotguns are also considered assault weapons.
A shotgun is considered an “assault weapon” if it is:
- A semi-automatic shotgun with both:
- A folding or telescoping stock; and
- A grip that would allow a finger other than the trigger finger to be below any portion of the action of the weapon when firing;
- A semi-automatic shotgun with a detachable magazine; or
- A shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
If you are one of the lucky ones to have owned the assault weapon before October 1, 1993 and obtained a certificate of possession from the Connecticut State Police before July 1, 1994, then you can continue to legally own the assault weapon.
As long as you legally own the “assault weapon” with the requirements above, you can even transfer the gun to someone else when you pass away, with or without a will, as long as the new owner also then gets a certificate of possession.
Carrying Assault Weapons
Even if you are allowed to own an assault weapon, the only situations where you can have it with you are:
- At your house, place of business, or other property, or on someone else’s property with the owner’s permission;
- At a target range for target practice;
- At a licensed shooting club;
- At an exhibition, display, or educational project about firearms, that is sponsored by, conducted under the guidance of, or approved by a law enforcement agency or recognized group that promotes education about firearms;
- Transporting the assault weapon to or from any of the places listed above, or to a licensed gun dealer, as long as the assault weapon is unloaded and in a container not accessible to people in the vehicle.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have had an assault rifle before the cutoff dates, you can still build a similar rifle that complies with the law. Check out our post on how to make a “featureless” AR-15 to learn all the ways you can still have a rifle without making it an assault weapon.
Where Can I Bring My Handgun?
To carry a handgun, either openly or concealed, you will need a permit.
A permit is required to:
- Carry a handgun outside your home (even if you are still on your own property) or in any business where you are an employee. If you are the business owner or operator, you don’t need a permit (you don’t need permission from yourself);
- Transport a handgun to and and from your home and place of business, or to and from a shooting range.
Without a permit, you can only have the gun in your house. You can’t even take the handgun to the range without a carry permit.
But Keep in Mind…
Even though you can get a permit to carry openly, the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners that is in charge of denying and revoking permits has stated that “every effort should be made to ensure that no gun is exposed to view or carried in a manner that would tend to alarm people who see it.”
So even with a permit to open carry, be discrete and don’t wave your gun around.
Should I Just Carry Concealed Then?
With all of these laws just to take your gun outside of your home, a concealed carry permit seems like it would be the least hassle. But of course, the state has put some hurdles in your way before issuing a concealed carry permit.
To learn how to apply for a concealed carry permit, check out our CCW section.
Where to Put Your Guns When You’re Away
Connecticut requires any loaded firearms to be:
- In a location that a reasonable person would believe is secure;
- Carried on you or within close proximity; or
- In a locked container.
So for those rare moments when the gun is not in your holster, make sure to put it somewhere safe that no one can get to.
On the Road
When you a transporting your handgun in the car, (with a permit!), it must be unloaded, and:
- Kept somewhere not directly accessible from the passenger compartment; or
- Kept in a locked container, not including the glove compartment or console.
In fact, even a BB gun must be stored in the truck or a locked container when you are transporting it in a car.
Carrying Your Long Gun
Luckily, there is no permit required to carry a long gun in Connecticut.
All shotguns and rifles must be unloaded when transported in a vehicle.
Muzzle-loading rifles and shotguns are considered “unloaded” even though a charge may be in the bore, as long as there is no powder in the flash pan or percussion cap on the nipple.
One More Thing
And just to keep you on your toes, Connecticut decided shotguns and rifles must also be unloaded when carried on a snowmobile.
To buy ammunition and magazines, you need to:
- Be 18 or older; and
- Have an ammunition certificate
To make things worse, this certificate needs to be renewed every 5 years.
On top of the permit requirements, armor-piercing .50 cal bullets or incendiary .50 cal bullets are banned in Connecticut.
Connecticut is one of the states that restricts magazine capacity to 10 rounds. It is illegal to own mags that hold more than 10 rounds, unless you owned the “large capacity” magazine before April 5, 2013, and registered the magazines by January 1, 2014.
Using Your Guns
Connecticut has a law that effectively reflects the Castle doctrine of self-defense when inside your home.
Use of reasonable physical force, including deadly force, is justified only to defend yourself or someone else when you reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent an attempt by a trespasser to commit arson or any violent crime at your house or place of work.
Of course, just because you may be justified in using deadly force, doesn’t mean you need to use deadly force. Always use your best judgement to decide what amount of force is necessary to defend yourself.
Don’t be a hero!
Even with the Castle doctrine put into law, Connecticut does not have a stand your ground law. In fact, state law specifically requires you to retreat, if you can avoid using force with completely safety by retreating, when you are not inside your home or place of work.
You Made It!
There are a lot of laws to be aware of in order to be a responsible gun owner in the state of Connecticut. Fortunately, if you follow all of the rules we’ve laid out, you should be safe and ready to protect your loved ones from the bad guys.
And of course, even if there weren’t laws on keeping your guns locked away in a safe place, it’s always a good idea in general to store your firearms in a secure location, with a sturdy gun safe or gun cabinet.
For those of you who just have a couple handguns to keep from prying eyes, a handgun safe can easily get the job done.