August 4th, 2008 01:05 PM
The Beginning of the End of Freedom
The Republican-American Unique law lets police seize guns before a crime is committed
HARTFORD -- Using a unique state law, police in Connecticut have disarmed dozens of gun owners based on suspicions that they might harm themselves or others.
The state's gun seizure law is considered the first and only law in the country that allows the confiscation of a gun before the owner commits an act of violence. Police and state prosecutors can obtain seizure warrants based on concerns about someone's intentions.
State police and 53 police departments have seized more than 1,700 guns since the law took effect in October 1999, according to a new report to the legislature. There are nearly 900,000 privately owned firearms in Connecticut today.
Opponents of a gun seizure law expressed fears in 1999 that police would abuse the law. Today, the law's backers say the record shows that hasn't been the case.
"It certainly has not been abused. It may be underutilized," said Ron Pinciaro, coexecutive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
Attorney Ralph D. Sherman has represented several gun owners who had their firearms seized under the law. His latest client was denied a pistol permit because the man was once the subject of a seizure warrant.
"In every case I was involved in I thought it was an abuse," said Sherman, who fought against the law's passage.
The report to the legislature shows that state judges are inclined to issue gun seizure warrants and uphold seizures when challenged in court.
Out of more than 200 requests for warrants, Superior Court judges rejected just two applications — one for lack of probable cause, and another because police had already seized the individual's firearms under a previous warrant. Both rejections occurred in 1999. The legislature's Office of Legislative Research could document only 22 cases of judges ordering seized guns returned to their owners.
Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, is one of the chief authors of the gun seizure law. In his view, the number of warrant applications and gun seizures show that police haven't abused the law.
"It is pretty consistent," said Lawlor, the House chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Robert T. Crook, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition of Sportsmen, questioned whether police have seized more guns than the number reported to the legislature. Crook said the law doesn't require police departments or the courts to compile or report information on gun seizures. The Office of Legislative Research acknowledged that its report may have underreported seizures.
"We don't know how many guns were actually confiscated or returned to their owners," Crook said.
Police seized guns in 95 percent of the 200-plus cases that the researchers were able to document. In 11 cases, police found no guns, the report said.
Spouses and live-in partners were the most common source of complaints that led to warrant applications. They were also the most frequent targets of threats. In a Southington case, a man threatened to shoot a neighbor's dog.
The gun seizure law arose out of a murderous shooting rampage at the headquarters of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. in 1998. A disgruntled worker shot and killed four top lottery officials and then committed suicide.
Under the law, any two police officers or a state prosecutor may obtain warrants to seize guns from individuals who pose an imminent risk of harming themselves or others. Before applying for warrants, police must first conduct investigations and determine there is no reasonable alternative to seizing someone's guns. Judges must also make certain findings.
The law states that courts shall hold a hearing within 14 days of a seizure to determine whether to return the firearms to their owners or order the guns held for up to one year.
Sherman said his five clients all waited longer than two weeks for their hearings. Courts scheduled hearing dates within the 14-day deadline, but then the proceedings kept getting rescheduled. In one client's case, Sherman said, the wait was three months.
Many gun owners don't get their seized firearms back. Courts ordered guns held in more than one-third of the documented seizures since 1999. Judges directed guns destroyed, turned over to someone else or sold in more than 40 other cases.
A Torrington man was one of the 22 gun owners who are known to have had their seized firearms returned to them.
In October 2006, Torrington police got a seizure warrant after the man made 28 unsubstantiated claims of vandalism to his property in three-year period. In the application, police described the man's behavior as paranoid and delusional. They said he installed an alarm system, surveillance cameras, noise emitting devices and spotlights for self-protection. They also reported that he had a pistol permit and possessed firearms.
A judge ordered the man's guns returned four months after police seized them. The judge said the police had failed to show the man posed any risk to himself or others. There also was no documented history of mental illness, no criminal record and no history of misusing firearms. "In fact, the firearms were found in a locked safe when the officers executed the warrant," the ruling said.
Lawlor and Sherman weren't aware of any constitutional challenges to the law, or any state or federal court rulings on the question of its constitutionality.
Lawlor said there have been no challenges on constitutional grounds because of the way the law was written. "The whole point was to make sure it was limited and constitutional," he said. Sherman said it is because the law is used sparingly, and because a test case would be too costly for average gun owners.
Lawlor, Crook, and Sherman don't see the legislature repealing or revising the gun seizure law. Pinciaro said Connecticut Against Gun Violence doesn't see any reason why lawmakers should take either action.
"The bottom line from our perspective is, it may very well have saved lives," Pinciaro said.
Crook and Sherman said law-abiding gun owners remain at risk while the gun seizure law remains on the statute books.
"The overriding concern is anybody can report anybody with or without substantiation, and I don't think that is the American way," Crook said
August 4th, 2008 01:27 PM
August 4th, 2008 01:52 PM
I wish they would have provided more information of what they think were "justifiable" seizures. But I guess if you keep that information secret, you can just tell the sheeple that this law is keeping them safer and they'll believe it.
64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.
August 4th, 2008 01:53 PM
If this is the criteria for paranoid and delusional behavior...
police described the man's behavior as paranoid and delusional. They said he installed an alarm system, surveillance cameras, noise emitting devices and spotlights for self-protection.
BTW what is a noise emitting device and where can I find one?
I already have the other "paranoid and delusional" items installed!
“Put your pain in a box. Lock it down. No man is stronger than one who can harness his emotions.” -Act of Valor
August 4th, 2008 02:04 PM
Originally Posted by TheShadow
As to the OP...after November, this could become a U.N./World Law!
The last Blood Moon Tetrad for this millennium starts in April 2014 and ends in September 2015...according to NASA.
Certified Glock Armorer
NRA Life Member[/B]
August 4th, 2008 02:06 PM
guilty till proven innocent.
Let's Roll - Todd Beamer
August 4th, 2008 02:26 PM
I would share my thoughts, but they might be monitored.
Fortes Fortuna Juvat
Former, USMC 0311, OIF/OEF vet
NRA Pistol/Rifle/Shotgun/Reloading Instructor, RSO, Ohio CHL Instructor
August 4th, 2008 02:36 PM
Reminds me of that Steven Spielberg film, Minority Report, where someone was arrested for murder before it was committed!
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch; Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
-- Benjamin Franklin
August 4th, 2008 02:39 PM
the thought police...another bureau of political correctness.
Let's Roll - Todd Beamer
August 4th, 2008 02:46 PM
So this actually means that police departments are spying on people and involving themselves in their personal lives? I'm almost sure the way they would go about gathering evidence would have to be illegal. This can't happen in America.
August 4th, 2008 02:51 PM
Lets see here. 200 seized per year out of 900,000. That's 1 50th of 1 %. At that rate if nobody buys another gun, they'll all be gone in 4,500 years.
August 4th, 2008 02:59 PM
Good grief. Lets look at this a bit. We already give the authorities the ability to hold us on mental health warrants under limited circumstances. It is not a reach that if the police come into contact with someone who, in the totality of the situation, is thought to be unstable and a danger to themselves, they should have some ability to act.
So, just like with the mental health holds, where the individual is taken into custody and held for evaluation, and a court hearing will follow, a parallel procedure may occur with weapons. The weapon is seized, the hearing follows. There is representation.
As has been said here often in other contexts, The Constitution isn't a suicide pact. There are undoubtedly individuals who should have their weapons taken, and there necessarily must be a mechanism for doing it with appropriate regard to the 4th.
What was described above is not excessively unreasonable. We take kids out of homes on comparable grounds. We take folks to mental facilities on comparable grounds, and there is judicial review.
Could it get out of hand? Yup. Is there room for mistake and error, and injustice? You bet.
Is it a bloody awful senseless law that violates individual rights? In most circumstance probably not.
August 4th, 2008 03:07 PM
I'd reread the article...it appears most of the complaints/concerns to the police were made by the spouse/live-in "Spouses and live-in partners were the most common source of complaints that led to warrant applications. They were also the most frequent targets of threats. In a Southington case, a man threatened to shoot a neighbor's dog."
Originally Posted by Ram Rod
...just as domestic abuse complaints.
August 4th, 2008 03:46 PM
Sounds like the "Thought Police" are hard at work in CT.
DEMOCRACY IS TWO WOLVES AND A LAMB VOTING ON WHAT TO HAVE FOR LUNCH. LIBERTY IS A WELL ARMED LAMB CONtestING THE VOTE.
Certified Instructor for Minnesota Carry Permit
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Utah Permit Certified Instructor
August 4th, 2008 03:53 PM
Thank God I dont live there.....and never will consider visiting either.
Mixed Martial Arts Record= 2-0.......Kyokushin Karate Record=5-0
USMC.....helping enemies of America die for their countries since 1775
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