Domestic violence advocates rallied with state officials Monday and vowed to fight a recent federal court ruling which could undermine a Connecticut law enabling courts to remove guns from people who are the subject of a restraining order.
Last week, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Texas man who challenged a court order that forbid him from stalking his ex-girlfriend and prohibited him from possessing firearms. The court, which had previously ruled against the man, revisited the case in light of recent Supreme Court rulings and found the policy banning his possession of guns unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press.
During a rally in the lobby of Attorney General William Tong’s office in Hartford, advocates and state officials said the ruling did not immediately invalidate a similar Connecticut law, but it put that policy at risk.
“It is only a matter of time — maybe days — before somebody goes to court and seeks to challenge Connecticut’s law,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “At that point, all bets are off.”
Throughout the event, domestic violence advocates said such a change would represent a threat to the tens of thousands of Connecticut women who survive domestic abuse every year. Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, said the decision prioritized gun ownership over women.
“What they have decided is that guns are more important than women’s lives,” Gilchrest said. “We don’t believe that in Connecticut and so we will fight.”
Connecticut courts can order weapons removed from people who have been subject to restraining orders. Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe said it was one of several tools to help domestic violence victims available to law enforcement officials. Officers routinely conduct danger assessments, transport victims and their children to safe places.
“I hope I never have to be in a position where I have to tell a police officer in the state of Connecticut that the one thing you can’t do after doing all that is take the guns out of the house because it just increases the level of danger,” Dryfe said.
Merry Jackson, whose daughter Lori Jackson was shot to death by her husband after she obtained a restraining order, recalled that trauma during Monday’s rally. Merry Jackson was also shot during the incident. She said it was important to preserve the law.
“A restraining order … that’s a piece of paper. You need to get the guns out of the homes of these people,” Jackson said. “Make it a little harder for them to do such a thing.”
“When I see another family on the news going through this again, it just brings it all back,” Jackson said.
Tong began the event by remembering Traci-Marie Jones, a Bethel woman who was shot and killed in a murder-suicide incident last week. Jones obtained a court order against the man who shot her late last month, according to CTInsider.
“We don’t need any more of a reminder how important laws protecting victims of domestic violence are and how important it is to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers,” Tong said.
Tong said his office would be ready to fight any legal challenge to Connecticut’s policies when and if such a lawsuit is filed.
“We are not powerless. Not by a long shot. Our laws are strong and constitutional and today they will keep people safe. Tonight they will save lives,” Tong said. “Here in Connecticut we are going to fight tooth and nail against any challenge.”