Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will try again this year to get firearms away from those accused of domestic violence offenses.
The goal of the legislation is to get firearms out of the hands of individuals who are the subject of a temporary restraining order stemming from domestic violence. The legislation would remove firearms from the targets of temporary restraining orders within 24 hours rather than waiting for a hearing before a judge.
Currently, there is no prohibition on the possession of firearms for subjects of temporary restraining orders. At the moment, a judge has to hold a hearing within 14 days of the temporary restraining order being issued to determine how long the restraining order will be in effect. If a full restraining order is then issued, a defendant then has two business days to transfer their firearm and ammunition to a federally licensed firearm dealer or the state.
Malloy, who first pitched the legislation on the campaign trail in 2014, has said two weeks and two days is too long to wait when statistics show women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm.
In Connecticut, an average of 14 individuals are killed by their intimate partners each year. Of those, about 39 percent were killed with firearms, making it the most commonly used weapon.
“The period immediately following a victim’s application for a restraining order is often the most dangerous time,” Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said. “The governor’s proposal to ensure that individuals subject to temporary restraining orders not have access to firearms is good public policy to protect victims.”
At least 20 other states, according to Jarmoc, give courts the explicit authority to temporarily remove firearms from some or all individuals who are subject to a temporary restraining order and nine states have criminal penalties for failure to surrender firearms within the given timeframe.
Jarmoc said it is critical that Connecticut join these states in closing a dangerous gap in safety for victims of domestic violence.
The proposal will likely receive criticism from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League and the National Rifle Association.
Last year, gun owners testified that there is no protection for those who become the subject of a temporary restraining order under false pretenses. At an all-day public hearing gun owners testified that a temporary restraining orders could be filed without cause and they wouldn’t get to defend their constitutional right to own a firearm until they were able to get a hearing with a judge. Under the legislation, it could take up to two weeks to get that hearing and during that time they will have been deprived of owning their firearms.
However, this year’s legislation is slightly different than last year’s bill.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said they have due process concerns about aspects of the bill, but acknowledged that it’s a “marked improvement” over last year’s bill.
“The language in the bill that calls for the reinstatement of a firearm permit to individuals who have a Temporary Restraining order vacated, indicates the governor is listening to at least some of what we’ve been saying since last year,” Wilson said. “We do feel that 24 hours is not enough time to safely guarantee the transfer of firearms, and limiting those transfers to strictly a Federally Licensed Dealer makes it even harder to accomplish this.”
But Malloy believes that’s a small price to pay.
Malloy’s legislation would allow a court to set an expedited hearing date if the respondent is employed in a position that requires them to carry a firearm.
It also makes individuals who fail to transfer their firearm within the 24 hour time frame criminally liable for possession of a firearm — a Class C felony with a mandatory minimum two-year sentence and $5,000 fine.
Another bill Malloy plans to introduce this year will lower the acceptable blood alcohol content for individuals carrying a firearm or hunting from 0.10 to 0.08. That’s the same blood alcohol level used for driving or boating under the influence.
Currently, the penalty for carrying a firearm under the influence is a Class B misdemeanor. The penalty for hunting under the influence is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties would remain unchanged under Malloy’s legislation.