In the wake of more and more mass shootings, more states are looking to model their gun laws after the gun seizure laws that Connecticut pioneered in 1999. The law, the first of its kind in the country, was drafted as a response to a 1998 killing that took the lives of four managers at the Connecticut Lottery headquarters and was orchestrated by a disgruntled employee with a history of psychiatric issues.
According to the law, judges may order guns temporarily seized after police present evidence that the person holding them is a danger to themselves or others. Once the weapons are seized, a court hearing must be held within 14 days to determine if the guns should be returned, or if the state should be authorized to hold them for up to a year.
Indiana is the only other state that has a similar law, passed in 2005 following a shooting by a mentally ill man that took the life of an Indianapolis police officer. California and News Jersey lawmakers are considering similar statutes, and both statues have been proposed in the wake of spree shootings.
The undersecretary for the Connecticut criminal justice planning and policy, Michael Lawlor, believes that these types of gun seizure laws could have prevented the mass killing at Sandy Hook, had the police been made aware the gunman had mental issues and access to his mother’s legally owned guns:
“That’s the kind of situation where you see the red flags and the warning signs are there, you do something about it. In many shootings around the country, after the fact it’s clear that the warning signs were there.”
Advocates, of course, oppose the seizure laws; they claim that the laws allow police to take people’s firearms based only on allegations, before gun owners can present their side of the story to a judge. Advocates are also concerned that the laws violate Constitutional rights. Rich Burgess, ammosexual from the gun-group Connecticut Carry, told the AP that:
“The government taking things away from people is never a good thing. They come take your stuff and give you 14 days for a hearing. Would anybody else be OK if they just came and took your car and gave you 14 days for a hearing?”
As a Connecticut lawyer who’s represented many gun owners, Rachel Baird said that one of the biggest problems is that police are abusing the law. She has had eight clients whose guns were seized by police, who obtained the required warrant only after taking possession of the firearms. Baird says that the law “is stretched and abused” and that “since it’s firearms, the courts go along with it.”
Stretched and abused for police overreach? Sounds almost like how the drug laws in this nation are treated, Ms. Baird. Eight is hardly police abuse by the standards of this authoritarian police state. It’s not even a footnote.
Backers of the law, however, say that the law can prevent shootings by getting the guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed people. Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence in Washington D.C., a non-profit, said that it was best to make sure that “when people are in a crisis . . . there is a way to prevent them to get access to firearms.”
Connecticut authorities report a large increase in use of gun seizure warrants that involve people that are deemed dangerous by police over the last several years. Police statewide filed an estimated 183 executed gun seizure warrants with court clerks last year, which is twice the number filed in 2010, according to Connecticut Judicial Branch data. Last year’s total was also higher than the annual average in the first five years of the gun seizure law by nearly nine times. Using warrants, the police have seized more than 2,000 guns.
However, police in South Windsor, about 12 miles northeast of Hartford, said the law was invaluable last year when they seized several guns belonging to a man accused of spray-painting graffiti referencing the mass shootings in New Town and Colorado on the town’s high school.
“With all that we see in the news day after day, particular after Newtown, I think departments are more aware of what authority they have … and they’re using the tool (gun seizure warrants) more frequently than in the past,” said South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed. “We always look at it from the other side. What if we don’t seize the guns?”
The NRA would have the opportunity to shatter yet more fundraising records?
More on School Shootings from AATTP
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- TEApublican Idiot Tells Glenn Beck: Armed School Children Prevent School Shootings (Video)
- Welcome to Tea Party America: Portland School Shooting is 74th Since Sandy Hook
- Here Kids, This is a Bulletproof Blanket: Good Luck in the Next Right-Wing Sponsored School Shooting