Unique law lets police seize guns before a crime is committed


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Zedicus
August 3, 2008, 11:08 PM
http://www.rep-am.com/News/357596.txt

Unique law lets police seize guns before a crime is committed

BY PAUL HUGHES REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

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.

:scrutiny:

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Guns and more
August 3, 2008, 11:29 PM
Well don't that beat all. Good thing I don't have any guns.

Z-Michigan
August 3, 2008, 11:41 PM
Reminds me of "precrime" from the movie "Minority Report."

If someone has actually made an illegal threat and there is credible evidence, that would also be assault and I can see a seizure there. But this sounds mostly like east coast idiocy in the common way. Glad I don't live there.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
August 3, 2008, 11:58 PM
"It certainly has not been abused. It may be underutilized,"

Translation: "It certainly has not been abused. But we intend to change that."

Speer
August 4, 2008, 12:33 AM
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.

And everyone one of those confiscations were peaceful?

Picard
August 4, 2008, 12:39 AM
Not a very unique law. This sounds like a prequel to the Katrina incident. It is scary that laws like this have a place in the U.S..

Our rights are being eroded more and more.

Kino74
August 4, 2008, 12:42 AM
Reading that article reminded me so much of 1984.

Everything is ok. Don't worry about it, we'll let you know if we excessively abuse you. No worries as Comrade Lawlor, D-East Haven has your best interests at heart.

Standing Wolf
August 4, 2008, 12:51 AM
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.

Lenin is laughing himself silly.

Tyris
August 4, 2008, 01:09 AM
The moral of the story is, dont comply with registration, and store multiple guns off-site.

-T

jaholder1971
August 4, 2008, 01:11 AM
A friend of mine went through something similar.

Non violent domestic dispute between friend and his (insane) wife involved cops. Wife's made so many outrageous accusations against her husband, her adult kids and the grandchildren that the cops all have the woman's number.

My friend's mistake was to tell the officer that, as a devout Catholic, he has been raised to reject the idea of divorce (even though his own priest said he should for his own personal safety) and that he was at the end of his mental rope.

The cop asked him if he believed he was a threat to himself or others, he told the officer that he was nearly ready to end it all.

They took him in to the ER for a psych eval and seized his 12 firearms, partly due to the psyche but mostly because they didn't trust leaving all his safe keys with a lunatic wife. He got them all back but it took a month.

He finally divorced her and he and all his adult children ended up with PFA's against her.

Drgong
August 4, 2008, 01:13 AM
Thought crimes...

Shudder...

ilbob
August 4, 2008, 08:48 AM
its not like the cops just up and decided to go steal these firearms. a judge actually had to sign a warrant to authorize it. there is at least some due process involved.

like all warrants it is a one sided affair where the side seeking the warrant can claim just about anything with no proof required of anything, so it will be abused, but that is no different than warrants of other types that are frequently issued in dubious circumstances, much like orders of protection.

there is still some due process involved, however slim, and better yet there is a record of what is being claimed.

usmarine0352_2005
August 4, 2008, 09:35 AM
.


Thus, never register your guns.


Sad.


.

Funderb
August 4, 2008, 10:12 AM
Wow, when putting in a security system makes you a threat to others, and a seizable offense, it makes me glad I don't own any guns.

romma
August 4, 2008, 11:01 AM
Well, we keep fighting here in CT, but we have a long way to go.

I wonder how this law would play out down the road butting heads with the Heller Ruling? I mean I know that people cite the Heller ruling for things that it doesn't apply to, but this law seems to be in conflict with the 2nd ammendment.

Just like restraining orders and no-contact orders also.

fletcher
August 4, 2008, 11:06 AM
Wow. Due process much?

Scoutsout2645
August 4, 2008, 11:55 AM
"Lawlor said there have been no challenges on constitutional grounds because...a test case would be too costly for average gun owners."

Seems to me that this would be an excellent opportunity for the NRA or some state-level 2nd Amendment PAC to step in on the behalf of one of these owners and take this law for Judicial review. That Torrington case, superficially, looks like an ideal one to take up, and the funds and lawyers these groups can provide would make it a fair fight.

"The moral of the story is, dont comply with registration"

Well, that IS a solution...but the problem is that, if you are then found in possession of said unregistered firearm, depending on the state you may be guilty of a felony-level crime. Then you WILL lose that firearm, any others you may have, and the ability to get more. If you're willing to take that risk, go ahead.

ilbob
August 4, 2008, 11:59 AM
this is not really a unqiue thing. AFAIK, every state has provisions that allow a court to claim you are a threat to a spouse and take your guns. usually the standard of proof is extremely lax.

Blackbeard
August 4, 2008, 12:08 PM
I'm sorry, officer, I'm afraid you might shoot an innocent person with your sidearm. I'm going to need you to hand it over.

burningsquirrels
August 4, 2008, 12:14 PM
sounds to me like they can whip up anything. hey look, someone lost their job and owns a pistol. let's go get it.

ilbob
August 4, 2008, 12:21 PM
sounds to me like they can whip up anything. hey look, someone lost their job and owns a pistol. let's go get it.
I'd bet most of the time the people who have firearms confiscated under this law are not people you would want to have firearms anyway.

I would like to see more proof before guns can be confiscated under such a procedure, and a the very least some opportunity for the person in question to answer the allegations in advance. the 4th amendment still applies, and if they take your property and don't plan to give it back, they should have to pay fair market value for it.

burningsquirrels
August 4, 2008, 12:24 PM
^^^ you said it better than i did. they really need to use a lot of proof before they take stuff away. i was just being sarcastic.

Poper
August 4, 2008, 12:56 PM
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. Gee! And just WHO is accountable for this??? :mad: :fire:
You folks in Connecticut need to get control of your state government before you lose ALL of your "inalienable" rights! Holy smoke!!! :eek: :eek: :eek:

Seems to me that this would be an excellent opportunity for the NRA or some state-level 2nd Amendment PAC to step in on the behalf of one of these owners and take this law for Judicial review. That Torrington case, superficially, looks like an ideal one to take up, and the funds and lawyers these groups can provide would make it a fair fight.JMHO, but there is something elementarily wrong when you have to fear your government's denial of your inalienable right and then have to risk bankruptcy or depend on others to defend yourself against your own government! :eek: What the heck is "free" about that? :confused:

How would you define tyranny? :scrutiny: Scary! Really scary!!

Poper

blackcash88
August 4, 2008, 02:07 PM
Ah yes... The good old CT "turn your neighbor in" law has once again reared its ugly head. :rolleyes:

Scoutsout2645
August 4, 2008, 02:34 PM
"JMHO, but there is something elementarily wrong when you have to fear your government's denial of your inalienable right and then have to risk bankruptcy or depend on others to defend yourself against your own government! What the heck is "free" about that?

How would you define tyranny? Scary! Really scary!!"

I call it reality and a recognition that public fear, justified or not, will erode our rights faster than anything else. We only keep our rights as long as we are willing to fight for them...fear of crime, fear of terrorism, fear of all the random crap that happens and our desire to want to think we can "control" these things will push the public to endorse laws like this. We have become too soft, comfortable and complacent to want to endure anything that threatens our safety and "way of life" and therefore we are more than willing to "sacrifice liberty for safety".

Tyranny is when the government does something you oppose, and all you do is gripe without taking actual, effective action to fight what they're doing. Getting the NRA to fight the law as our allies with deep pockets is effective--throwing lots of smileys onto my posts isn't.

romma
August 4, 2008, 03:42 PM
Gee! And just WHO is accountable for this???
You folks in Connecticut need to get control of your state government before you lose ALL of your "inalienable" rights! Holy smoke!!!

Believe me we are trying. The State Police here tries like crazy to legislate by creating bogus policy for one thing, but keep in mind as another poster pointed out, Probably every State has some means to confiscate firearms at least temporarily .

Our big fight at the moment mainly seems to be permits being yanked for either open carrying or blowing concealment here.

WayneConrad
August 4, 2008, 03:49 PM
Oh, never mind.

blackcash88
August 4, 2008, 03:53 PM
Our big fight at the moment mainly seems to be permits being yanked for either open carrying or blowing concealment here.

Which is complete BS because there is NOTHING in the laws prohibiting open carry. I should be perfectly legal by default, but the SFLU and the corrupt staties are always making their own rules. :rolleyes:

anarchris
August 4, 2008, 06:12 PM
Reminds me of "precrime" from the movie "Minority Report."


except it made me think about the story first, the PKD story the movie was based on.

Rachen
August 4, 2008, 07:48 PM
Seems like we were once again propelled just a bit closer to "1984" and "A Clockwork Orange".

SOneThreeCoupe
August 5, 2008, 02:18 AM
We're all whining about this, but how many of us are actually going to do ANYTHING about it?

Please, if you've commented here, send an e-mail here:
governor.rell@ct.gov
-The Governor

http://dodd.senate.gov/index.php?q=node/3128&cat=Opinion -Chris Dodd, Senator

http://lieberman.senate.gov/contact/casework.cfm?regarding=question
-Joe Lieberman, Senator

http://www.house.gov/shays/contact/
-Chris Shays, Representative

http://www.house.gov/formchrismurphy/ic_zip_auth.htm
-Chris Murphy, Representative

http://www.house.gov/delauro/IMA/issue.htm
-Rosa DeLauro, Representative

http://courtney.house.gov/email/
-Joe Courtney, Representative

John B. Larson doesn't want to talk to you if you don't live in CT, but you can try, using the zip of 06106.

By the way, the law is in Chapter 529, sec. 29-38c.
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2007/pub/Chap529.htm#Sec29-38c.htm

Colt Smith
August 7, 2008, 02:06 AM
So much for innocent until PROVEN guilty.

KC0QGL
August 7, 2008, 03:00 AM
So much for innocent until PROVEN guilty.
You beat me to it.

exar
August 7, 2008, 03:43 AM
Dupe.

exar
August 7, 2008, 03:46 AM
based on suspicion that the gun owners(criminals is what they meant, I'm sure, really:rolleyes::scrutiny:)might harm themselves or others.

it may very well have saved lives."

That's an awful lot of "what if's?" considering people's civil rights could be getting violated.


July 2, 1999
Web posted at: 7:41 p.m. EDT (2341 GMT)
From Correspondent Frank Buckley

That first article appears dated. However, the second one doing the follow up, nearly a decade later, just shows how active the antis are when it comes to beating a dead horse. It looks like, after Heller, they really got their panties in a wad up there and are grasping at straws, if they're going to dig crap legislation like that up.:rolleyes:

RP88
August 7, 2008, 03:35 PM
I do wonder on what basis that the people whose guns were not returned were denied on. If the technical wording is the same as the editorial, then I'm banking this is wholly unconstitutional. I would only hope that those who had their property wrongfully seized - even if returned - could and would sue for civil damages.

Orthonym
August 8, 2008, 12:45 AM
I just wonder, if there is some way for private citizens contemplating exchanging guns for money to assure each other that neither of them is a dangerous criminal lunatic, without the .gov finding out about the transaction.

wacki
August 8, 2008, 03:11 AM
anyone have a copy of this report? I checked the Connecticut Coalition of Sportsmen and couldn't find anything on their site.

wacki
August 8, 2008, 01:38 PM
Nevermind I found it:

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-R-0280.htm

list is here:
http://www.ctsportsmen.com/office_of_legislative_reports.htm


wow

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