Victims of domestic violence in Connecticut will receive additional protections with the passing of a bill aimed at prohibiting those who are subject to a temporary restraining order from possessing firearms, thus eliminating a critical window of time during which a victim’s life could be at risk. The bill heads to the governor’s desk in the coming days for his signature before it becomes state law.
The bill passed in the Connecticut General Assembly -- the House passing its version of the bill last week, the Senate approving it Monday -- the latest action to strengthening gun laws following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, who introduced the bill in February this year, said the bill is vital for the safety of domestic violence victims.
"We have a moral obligation to work to prevent needless tragedy and to make this the law,” he said in a statement Monday. “Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm. 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. Now, Connecticut will take a commonsense step towards strengthening and enhancing our gun violence protection laws.”
Under current state law, only those with permanent restraining orders are prohibited from firearm possession. Those with temporary restraining orders must attend a hearing with a judge before a full restraining order can be granted -- this process often taking several weeks during which a victim’s life could be at risk, according to supporters of the bill.
The new bill will require the subject of the temporary order to turn in their firearm to police within 24 hours. The bill also requires a hearing on a full order to take place within seven days to usher along the process in a timely fashion, instead of the two week time allotment.
It's a bill federal lawmakers are also trying to mirror and propel across a national level. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who's working on legislation of his own in the U.S. Senate, told ABC News that Congress needs to act, and fast.
“Congress must follow Connecticut’s lead and end its complicity with domestic violence gun deaths by passing national legislation prohibiting domestic abusers from having firearms. My measure would save lives by preventing domestic abusers across the country from purchasing or possessing guns," Blumenthal said. "Abusers are often at the height of their rage after being served with a temporary restraining order, and this new Connecticut law removes deadly weapons from their hands before they can cause irreversible harm. The link between guns and domestic violence is a deadly one. We must act quickly. Lives are literally on the line.”
Connecticut’s other Democratic senator, Chris Murphy, a co-sponsor of Blumenthal's bill, faults Congress for its inaction.
“I’m glad Connecticut is continuing to lead the nation in preventing dangerous people from buying guns. I see absolutely no reason why anyone would stand up and argue that a domestic abuser under a under a court-ordered temporary restraining order should be able to walk out of a store with a gun,” he said. “If Congress continues to fail to expand background checks and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, more lives will be lost. And that will be on us.”
The state bill has earned applause from the White House and also former congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords.
“I applaud Connecticut’s leaders who stood up for common sense and voted for this responsible bill that will make it harder for abusers to get their hands on guns,” she said in a statement posted online.
According to Giffords’ organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries. And more than than half of all murders of American women are committed with a gun, according to the group, which also noted that abused women are also five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm.
But critics of gun control, including the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, say the bill violates due process rights for gun owners. CCDL President Scott Wilson posted his own statement online saying the bill eliminates the protections affirmed under the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
“We feel it is important for the public to understand that individuals who may be served with an order of this type do not even have to be charged with any crime, let alone convicted of wrong-doing,” Wilson said. “It’s very unfortunate that proponents of this bill that hold office and have sworn to uphold our constitution are working hand in hand with groups that are specifically misleading the public.”