CT restraining order bill — protection for women or an infringement of firearms rights?

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Dozens of witnesses have offered their opinion on Senate Bill 650, a proposal that would enhance in several ways protection for restraining order applicants. One controversial element, however, would also abridge the rights of Connecticut firearms owners, opponents say.

Here are excerpts from a sampling of the written testimony both in favor of and opposing the firearms portion of the bill. The entire collection of witness statements is available here. 

NAYRay Bevis
Wolcott

I understand the importance of this bill, and agree no human should wrongfully hurt another.

Unfortunately, no bill or law will change the mindset of another person. If a person has the intentions of hurting someone else, no one would be able to stop that person by removing an item from their possession. In fact, by doing such you may be escalating the volatility of a situation by creating a respondent that now feels animosity towards the applicant.

This bill will wrongfully violate the fundamental rights of hundreds of people a year all based only on hearsay. In 2014, 45 percent of all ex parte temporary restraining orders were found not to be valid after the hearing.

In Connecticut in 2011 and 2012, guns were used in only 1 percent of all family violence incidents reported to police, knives or other weapons were used in 9 percent of those incidents.

This proposed bill, S.B. 650 is to provide greater protection to the applicants of ex parte restraining orders. But this bill is only addressing the weapons used the least in all family violence incidents and totally ignores the more commonly used weapons, therefore it’s reasonably assumed that this bill will not provide greater protection for it’s applicants.

Connecticut already has multiple firearm seizure provisions for persons posing a risk of injury to self or other, under Sec. 29·38c. ‘Seizure of firearms of person posing risk of imminent personal injury to self or others. Under Sec. 46b-38b A peace officer while investigating a family violence crime may seize any firearm at that location Therefore, one can responsibility assume, with current gun seizure laws on the books, subjects of restraining orders after a hearing banned from having firearms and with no deaths by firearms while under a 14-day temporary restraining order reported in the 2014 and 2013 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Reports, that the current statues are serving it’s people very well.

 

yea

Angela Schlingheyde
The Center for Family Justice, Inc.

It was brought up several times that CGS 20-38(c), Seizure of Firearms of Person Posing Risk of Imminent Personal Injury to Self or Others, was a better, and more efficient way to remove firearms from those who pose a risk to domestic violence victims once that victim applies for an ex parte, temporary  restraining order.

Having no personal experience with the use of the Risk Warrant Statue, I was not in a position to agree or disagree at the time of the hearing.  Since that time, I have spoken with members of law enforcement in our catchment area to determine if this was, in fact, the best option.  After meeting with law enforcement, it is the general consensus, that the Risk Warrant Statute may seem, on paper, to be a great option, but in reality, it is not.

Realistically, if law enforcement was required to use a Risk Warrant for all ex parte, temporary restraining orders where the respondent had a firearm, the workload would be unmanageable.

It is easy for those outside of law enforcement to say that a Risk Warrant can be obtained within an hour or so, but that is simply not the truth. First, and foremost, the police need to conduct an investigation to establish probable cause. The victim’s statement is certainly one element of probable cause, but the police would need to corroborate the victim’s statement, which may include interviewing the accused, gathering emails/text messages, speaking to family members/witnesses, etc.

This can take a few hours, or days, depending on the case. Once the information is gathered and it is determined that probable cause exists, the officer needs to fill out the warrant.  Perhaps writing the warrant itself is not terribly time consuming, but the realities of finding a judge to sign the warrant is another matter. Finding an available judge during the day can be difficult, as most are on the bench. During the Summer months or holiday season, it can sometirries take davs to find a judge to sign a warrant, and even though there is a judge on call, it can be extremely time consuming to track down a judge during the evening/weekend hours.

Once the warrant is signed, for officer safety purposes, a search protocol must be established. It is not just a question of knocking on the door and getting the guns.

As you can see, the Risk Warrant is not something that law enforcement can deal with in a mere hour or so, as was suggested during the public hearing. That, in conjunction with the fact that it does not protect victims of domestic violence who choose not to involve law enforcement, makes SB 650 and HB 6848 the better option to offer more protection to victims of domestic violence.

NAY

Scott Crosby
Councilman, Mauldin, S.C.

To deny due process is wrong and undeniably unconstitutional. SB 650 is an attempt by its sponsor to harass those exercising their Second Amendment rights; as such it is doubly in the wrong.

While I do not live in Connecticut, I have been a frequent traveler through your state for more than six decades on my way to Maine. Rest assured that with the passage of S-650, I will arrange my future trips so as to make no stops in Connecticut, for food, fuel, nor rest.

Also, please be aware that I also will urge others to do likewise, avoiding any contribution to a state so willing to blatantly take away the guaranteed rights which are the due of any American.

yea

Julie R. Rosenbaum MD, FACP
Connecticut Chapter of the National Physicians Alliance

Robert J. Nardino, MD, FACP
Governor, American College of Physicians CT Chapter

Regarding SB 650 and HB 6848, these proposals reflect the recommendations of the Connecticut Legislative Task Force to Study Service of Restraining Orders.

As physicians, we see the devastating impact of domestic violence on the physical and mental health of our patients every day. We encourage our patients to find ways to change their situation and protect themselves from harm.

At the time of application for a restraining order, applicants are particularly vulnerable to retribution from those who they most fear. Currently under Connecticut law, there is a two week period between an application for a restraining order and the 14-day hearing during which the accused may seek to harm the applicant.

An ex parte restraining order with removal of firearms and ammunition from the respondents during this time period should serve as extra protection for the applicant from those who are reasonably thought to pose risk.

What do you think?

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