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Law aimed at taking guns from domestic violence abusers passes state Legislature

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HARTFORD -- A law aimed at taking guns away from domestic violence abusers has officially passed both houses of the state Legislature, and Gov. Dan Malloy signed it on May 31. It takes effect October 1, 2016.

"Now, Connecticut will take a commonsense step towards strengthening and enhancing our gun violence protection laws. I want to thank every senator who today voted to approve this bill in concurrence with the House, and I look forward to signing it in the coming days," Malloy said in a statement.

The state Senate voted in favor of the bill on Monday 23-13.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives last Wednesday with a vote of 104-42, prevents people served with temporary restraining orders from keeping their guns. Alleged abusers now have 24 hours to sell their weapons to a licensed dealer or turn them over to police.

The new legislation requires a hearing on a full restraining order within seven days. If a permanent order is not granted, gun owners get their firearms back.

"We have a moral obligation to work to prevent needless tragedy and to make this the law," Malloy said in his statement. "Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm. Between 2000 through 2012, Connecticut averaged 14 intimate partner homicides per year, and firearms were the most commonly used weapons. 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."

House Bill 5054, "An Act Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence," changes current law, which states a domestic violence victim must apply for a temporary restraining order and then wait two weeks for a judge to grant a permanent order before an abuser's guns are confiscated.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a proponent of the legislation who testified on the iteration of the bill that went through the Legislature last year but ultimately failed, also released a statement on the passage:

With this legislation, we’ve taken an important step towards protecting victims of domestic violence. Rather than endure the hand-wringing that follows a deadly family violence incident, Connecticut is addressing the threat that firearms make to victims – before a life is lost. I thank the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and many other partners for their tireless advocacy on behalf of victims, and applaud the Senate for ensuring that this bill got to the governor’s desk.

Gun advocates had argued it's not fair because a temporary restraining order can be obtained without testimony and because there is an existing law which allows officers to seize guns from people who pose a risk to themselves or others.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, an organization known as CCDL that advocates for gun rights, released a statement after learning of the news of the bill's passage. CCDL President Scott Wilson said:

CCDL members have pointed out since the governor introduced this bill, it is nothing but a back door method to force the surrender of firearms with no opportunity for a respondent of such an order to be heard prior to any surrender of legal property. The bill would eliminate the standard protection of ‘Due Process’ as affirmed under the 5th 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. 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. These groups are essentially claiming those who get served with one of these orders are factual domestic abusers based on one-sided claims. Also, there are already at least two existing laws that work better to protect people who may be at risk of harm.

It seems any time a gun enters the equation, it becomes acceptable to violate constitutionally protected rights. Without proof someone is a danger to others or themselves, a hearing should be in order. We do not get why that is so difficult a concept for many lawmakers.

The bill passed in the House last week after heartfelt testimony from Rep. Robyn Porter from New Haven, who is a domestic abuse survivor herself. She told her own story about her ex-husband who had a gun and who shoved her through a glass patio door while she was pregnant, before she decided to leave him.

"I just wanted them to understand the dynamics of where you are physically, emotionally, spiritually how it impacts you and how it's important when you decide to leave to have that protection," said Rep. Porter.

More than a dozen other states have strengthened laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence abusers over the last two years.

Last year, the bill didn't make it to a Senate vote before the session ended.