Proponents say a new gun law in Connecticut, which will allow firearms to be confiscated from those who have a temporary restraining order filed against them, will save lives, but gun rights advocates say it will deny gun owners due process and could result in other unintended consequences when it goes into effect Oct. 1.
Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law this week. The legislation was brought forward after an Oxford, Connecticut resident, Lori Jackson Gellatly, was shot and killed by her estranged husband. Gellatly had filed a temporary restraining order but was killed while awaiting a court hearing for a permanent restraining order. Her family went to the Connecticut capital over Memorial Day weekend to push for the gun law.
Advocates for domestic violence victims say the law is needed to protect those in vulnerable and possibly life-threatening situations.
"This is really good policy," said Karen Jarmoc, president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Jarmoc, an adviser on the legislation, said it has been proven that a "mixture between domestic policy and firearms could be dangerous and lethal sometimes."
"Clearly it is going to save people’s lives," Jarmoc said of the law. "It increases the safety of domestic abuse victims." She said when a temporary restraining order is issued, it is "sometimes the first time an abuser knows" his victim wants to leave. "It is a very dangerous and vulnerable time."
Gun rights advocates stated the law will deny gun owners due process and may actually leave victims without the ability to defend themselves.
"Our organization believes that there will be unintended consequences as a result of this law. As what often happens, many temporary restraining orders are filed by a person who may be the actual aggressor in a Domestic situation. When this happens, it could easily leave an innocent respondent to a temporary restraining order disarmed and unable to properly protect themselves," said Scott Wilson Sr., president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, in an email.
"The fact that nearly half of the temporary restraining orders issued in the past were never ordered to become full restraining orders clearly indicates that there are a lot of false claims made by filers," Wilson said.
The gun rights group is concerned that due process will be violated by the law.
"The whole concept of what due process actually is has been turned on its head. Due process used to mean that whatever governmental arm had any kind of intentions of imposing will over a citizen, first had a reasonable threshold," Wilson said. "By Connecticut's standards, it now means your due process comes after the fact. That is not due process. The position the State of Connecticut is taking should concern everyone across the country."
When asked about due process, Jarmoc said about the gun law "we know it’s a law in 20 other states and it has been upheld. We’re talking about protection of life." She added there will be hearings within seven days to determine if a temporary restraining order will become a permanent order.
"This is about victim safety and was never about guns," Jarmac said.
Wilson said Connecticut already had existing statutes to protect victims.
"There was already existing legislation in our state statutes that is faster at protecting individuals who may be potential victims of Domestic Violence. That statute (29-38c) also allowed for a brief investigation by authorities to substantiate claims made before a warrant would be issued to seize firearms. It was designed to protect individuals on both ends of a claim," Wilson said.
"Now firearms are automatically required to be surrendered based on a one-sided claim by someone who may simply have an axe to grind. Plus, the surrender of firearms is within 24 hours under this new law, not automatically as with the prior existing legislation," Wilson said.