April 27, 2016
Rep. William Tong, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, led the House of Representatives Wednesday in passing a bill he introduced with the goal of reducing violence against women and children.
“We must do everything we can to prevent domestic violence,” said Tong (D-Stamford, Darien). “Victims of domestic abuse are highly vulnerable to further abuse, and this bill protects them by temporarily removing firearms from their abusers. It is a common-sense answer to a problem that has claimed too many lives. A woman and her children simply should not have to wait several weeks for a court hearing when they are in any kind of danger because of another person having access to a gun,” Tong said.
Connecticut is not alone in enacting this type of legislation. At least twenty other states, including Massachusetts, have passed similar bills authorizing or requiring the surrender of firearms at the ex parte stage, he said.
“There are some who would say that their Second Amendment rights are being taken away, but the truth is the gun in fact can always be returned later to the rightful owner. What can’t be returned, however, is the life that has been taken from a victim. The bullet that injures or kills someone cannot be unfired,” Tong said.
The goal of the legislation, HB 5054, An Act Protecting Victims Of Domestic Violence, is to protect victims of domestic violence by prohibiting possession of firearms by anyone who becomes subject to a temporary restraining order upon notice of being served. The bill requires gun owners to surrender their firearms within 24 hours of being served with a temporary restraining order in domestic violence cases. Under current law, gun owners accused of abuse to surrender their arms only if a judge issues a permanent restraining order after a contested hearing, leaving guns in the home during the volatile period when a victim may be exiting an abusive relationship.
“As legislators we have a duty to do everything we can to keep people safe,” Tong said.
The days following service of a temporary restraining order and the days leading up to the first court appearance are the most dangerous for a victim of domestic violence, and the goal of this legislation is to protect victims during that time period, he said.
Tong cited several reasons for the legislation:
• Nationally, domestic assaults involving firearms are 12 times more likely to result in fatal violence than those involving other weapons or bodily harm.
• Women in abusive relationships are 5 times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm.
• Connecticut averaged 14 intimate partner homicides per year from 2000 to 2012 and firearms were used in 39 percent of those 188 homicides, making them the most commonly used weapon to commit intimate partner homicide in Connecticut.