A senior advisor to President Barack Obama called House Speaker Brendan Sharkey on Tuesday to urge him to call a bill that would require individuals who are the subject of temporary restraining orders to give up their firearms.
Valerie Jarrett, who oversees the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and who is one of Obama’s closest and most influential advisors, called Sharkey to encourage him to call the bill for a vote.
According to Sharkey, Jarrett told him the White House is watching a number of domestic violence initiatives across the country and hoping Connecticut’s legislation gives the issue some momentum.
Sharkey told Jarrett he expects the bill will be called soon. “She said that was the best news she heard all day,” Sharkey said.
But domestic violence advocates in Connecticut are still concerned.
The clock is ticking on the legislative session and advocates are worried the legislation won’t come up for a vote in time. The legislative session adjourns on May 4 and after House passage, unless Republicans agree to waive the rules, it will have to sit on the Senate calendar for three days.
The bill, which died on the calendar last year, has been a priority of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and advocates against domestic violence. Last year, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords urged lawmakers to pass the legislation, but it still got hung up on the calendar as time ran out.
Sharkey said that Giffords husband, Mark Kelly, also called him about the legislation, which is a priority of their organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions.
“I urge leaders in the Connecticut House to come together and pass this responsible bill that will help close a loophole that gives dangerous domestic abusers easy access to guns,” Giffords said in a statement Tuesday. “Now is the time for leaders in the House to act, to be responsible, and to help protect Connecticut families. Connecticut can continue to lead the way in keeping guns out of the wrong hands and making our communities safer places to live.”
This year there are two House bills that include language allowing firearms to be removed from certain homes based on an affidavit from a domestic violence victim.
Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Monday that the bills are ready to go and have gone through the proper process.
“House Republicans have compromise language and the votes are there,” Jarmoc said. “There’s no reason at this point for this to be sitting on the House calendar.”
Sharkey agreed that there’s no reason they wouldn’t be running it.
“I think the votes are here to pass it,“ he said.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Tuesday that they are still finalizing some language and making a lot of improvements to the bill. There are a number of Republican lawmakers who have concerns about the constitutional rights of gun owners and the process the bill creates to take those firearms away without a judicial hearing.
The bill doesn’t have a fiscal note that would hold it up and has been on the calendar since April 14.
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said the bill is in a “good place” and there’s a “rhythm to how” the House goes about its business.
Tong said there is some compromise and constructive conversations going on with Republicans.
“We’re getting there,” Tong said Tuesday. “It’s close.”
However, no one was able to say Tuesday when exactly the bill would be called for debate.
In urging Connecticut lawmakers to approve the legislation, Gifford’s organization pointed out that there is an often lethal link between domestic violence situations and an abuser’s access to firearms in Connecticut.
Between 2000 and 2011, 175 people in the state of Connecticut were killed by an intimate partner, and 38 percent of these homicides were committed with a gun. In 2010, more than 90 percent of Connecticut domestic violence homicide victims were women.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment group, has said the legislation is about guns, and not about domestic violence.
Scott Wilson, president of the CCDL, said “they’re saying it’s not about guns, but it’s about guns.”
Wilson worries that a person could use the legislation to make a false claim against a spouse or a partner in order to gain an advantage over custody or control of property or children.
Second Amendment supporters argued that the state already has a law on the books that would protect domestic violence victims from their abuser and creating another one was unnecessary.
They said the bill would violate due process rights for gun owners.