A bill to help protect domestic violence victims was tabled with approximately 24 hours to go in the session, effectively killing the measure.
Lawmakers managed to amend S.B. 650, An Act Concerning Temporary Restraining Orders, before discussion was interrupted to take up Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Second Chance Society legislation.
Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, said temporary restraining order bill would revise the application for a restraining order so that an individual in fear for his or her life would have two options for requesting that firearms be taken away from the subject of the petition.
The first option would be to have the family court issue a temporary restraining order served by a marshal to notify the subject that any firearms must be surrendered or sold within 24 hours, according to Coleman.
Currently, the law leaves access to firearms in temporary restraining order cases up to a judge at a hearing that may be held as many as two weeks after the initial order is issued.
Coleman described a second check box that would invoke the criminal “risk warrant” procedure implemented in the wake of the 1998 mass shooting at the Connecticut Lottery headquarters.
The risk warrant process, which Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield said has been tested in court and upheld as constitutional, is based on a statutory provision that gives law enforcement the ability to seize firearms when an investigation reveals probable cause that the owner is a threat to “self or others” and a warrant is issued.
Kissel, while in support of the risk warrant procedure that he says has not traditionally been used in domestic violence cases, rose in opposition to the amendment. He said the civil restraining order option had not been carefully conceived to consider the need to protect victims of domestic violence as well as the second amendment rights of those who may be targeted by the orders.
He said the significance of the bill was illustrated by a March public hearing on the measure, along with another controversial family court issue, that lasted for 16 hours as advocates for domestic violence victims and gun rights sat in front of the Judiciary Committee to say their piece.
To illustrate his concerns, Kissel cited a hypothetical “Charlie Smith” who surrenders his guns and permit as directed. “Charlie wants to do everything right. Charlie does it,” Kissel said.
Kissel went on to describe a hearing held up to two weeks later during which Charlie is cleared. But permit procedure and law enforcement requirements mean it could be two years before Charlie gets his permit reinstated and his firearms returned, according to Kissel.
“Is this an imaginary scenario? Absolutely not. This is how the bill will really play out. Maybe not for everyone, maybe not even for the majority,” he said – but the need remains to find a balance between the law-abiding Charlies and domestic violence victims fearful for their lives.
The bill would also require an expedited hearing for peace officers subject to an ex parte order (an order issued without a hearing), reduces the number of days before a hearing date that the notice must be served from five days to three, and continues an ex parte order beyond the initial hearing date under certain circumstances.
The amendment passed 19 to 17, with several Democrats joining Republicans in opposition. The bill was tabled before Republican Sen. Joe Markley of Southington could bring up another amendment.
Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said she supports the amended bill. She said the risk warrant procedure may be acceptable to some victims while others may prefer not to involve the police.
“The reason why we’re not favorable to [the risk warrant] as the only option is because there are a lot of reasons why victims are fearful of law enforcement,” Jarmoc said. “Sometimes it’s not justified, but there’s that fear.”
With the clock winding down on the session, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said Tuesday morning that there had not yet been a deal struck to get the bill on the house floor even if it passes the Senate.