For opponents of the legislation, it was about firearms. For proponents, however, it was about protecting victims of domestic violence.
The Senate voted 23-13 to give final passage to a bill that would require the subject of a temporary restraining order to turn over their firearm to law enforcement, until there’s a court hearing to determine if the temporary restraining order should be dismissed or become permanent.
The bill was modified to decrease the amount a time a person who is subject to a temporary restraining order will have to wait before they see a judge to answer allegations made by a victim in an affidavit. The time was reduced from 14 to 7 days. The bill also includes a provision that would give the individual back their firearm within five days of a dismissal of a temporary restraining order.
“Protection of domestic violence victims is the consideration,” Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, said.
He said any firearms would have to be surrendered to the state or local police department and would be given back within five days of the order being dismissed or expired.
However, opponents of the bill felt differently.
“This isn’t about domestic violence,” Witkos said. “This is about taking away someone’s constitutional right to own a firearm.”
What we’re “setting in motion here goes way beyond that. It takes somebody’s constitutional right away from them,” Witkos, a former Canton police officer, said.
He said there’s no penalty for not returning a firearm within the time frame.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s concerned about what happens if a state marshal can’t find an individual to serve them with the temporary restraining order.
Fasano said if a person was out of state when the notice was delivered they could come back and be subject to a felony, because they had no notice of the order.
“That strikes me as uniquely unfair,” Fasano said.
But for the Jackson family, what’s not fair is that their daughter and sister is no longer alive because she was killed by her husband.
A tearful Merry Jackson and Kacey Mason, Lori Jackson’s mother and sister, were grateful the legislation received an overwhelming amount of support this year so that another family doesn’t have to experience their pain.
“I’m more emotional than I thought I would be,” Mason said after the Senate vote. “I feel a victory in her honor.”
In May 2014, Jackson was granted a temporary restraining order against her husband, Scott Gellatly. Gellatly was in Massachusetts and unable to be served with the restraining order. He legally purchased a gun and then used it to kill Jackson.
Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said this year they were successful because they worked hard to educate lawmakers about the need for the legislation.
She said they know why it’s a dangerous time for a victim when they make the decision to leave their abuser and how their “access to firearms makes it much more dangerous.”
Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, spoke about how she used to take the bullets out of her husband’s gun every night because she was afraid he would kill her.
“If he was going to use the gun, he was going to have to find the bullets,” Porter said during last Wednesday’s House debate. “I knew my chances of fighting him with any kind of weapon, be it a knife, a bat, his fist, a brick. I felt I stood a better chance against any of those instruments.”
Jarmoc said Porter’s testimony and her work behind the scenes talking with her colleagues helped get the legislation passed. When Porter got up and told her story, Jarmoc said, she thought that swayed even more lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill.
It passed the House on a 104-42 vote last Wednesday, and now goes to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is expected to sign it into law.
“We have a moral obligation to work to prevent needless tragedy and to make this the law,” Malloy said after Monday’s Senate vote. “Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm.”
Malloy added: “When an instance of domestic violence rises to the point that a temporary restraining order is needed, we must do everything we can to prevent tragedy.”