GOP lawmakers say Democratic gun plan could backfire [Waterbury Republican-American]

March 10, 2015


HARTFORD — Republican lawmakers say a proposed change in state law intended to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence could instead backfire.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and some Democrats in the legislature are proposing to prohibit possession of firearms by anyone who becomes subject to a temporary restraining order.

The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee is scheduled to conduct a hearing Wednesday on House and Senate bills proposing to make this change to the law.

The committee will be hearing a good deal of testimony from supporters and opponents of the legislation.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence intends to testify in support of both bills. It says 20 states have enacted and successfully defended these kinds of laws based on the state’s interest to protect victims of domestic violence.

The opposition is also mobilizing, including the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

A group of Republican legislators raised concerns Monday that the proposed change would leave some victims of domestic abuse more vulnerable because they could be forced to surrender firearms.

“Under these bills, a woman in a family dispute could be rendered defenseless against her violent abuser without due process of law,” said Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a first-term Republican from Chaplin.

There are also other constitutional issues for Republicans.

Sen, Joseph C. Markley, R-16th District, and other GOP lawmakers said Monday that they want to craft bipartisan legislation to protect domestic abuse victims and people’s constitutional rights to bear arms, due process and equal protection of the law.

State law authorizes judges to grant such a temporary order if an applicant alleges an immediate and present physical danger. However, a judge must conduct a hearing before issuing a permanent restraining order.

A temporary order covers the two-week period between the application for a permanent restraining order and the hearing on the request.

Republican legislators proposed Monday that courts conduct hearings within 24 hours to 48 hours of the filing for a temporary restraining order to determine whether any party should be required to relinquish their firearms.

“I think that is the better way to make sure that we are not, I guess in a sense, victimizing a different set of people,” said Rep. Cecilia Buck-Taylor, R-New Milford.

In addition to the adults involved, she said she is concerned about protecting physical and mental well-being of children.

Republican lawmakers argued a hearing will allow a judge to hear the facts and determine if anyone should be required to relinquish any firearms.

“Without a hearing, judge cannot make an informed decision,” Dubitsky said.

Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill, R-Southbury, said Malloy and Democrats appear to be ignoring the state’s gun seizure law.

The 1999 law allows police and state prosecutors to obtain court orders to seize firearms and ammunition from gun owners who are deemed at imminent risk to harm themselves or others.

The Democratic legislation is a response to a horrific crime in Oxford last May, when an estranged husband allegedly shot his wife to death one day before a scheduled hearing on her request for a permanent restraining order.

Authorities say Scott Gellatly forced his way into his in-laws’ home on Sioux Drive in Oxford, shot and killed 32-year-old Lori Jackson Gellatly while the couple’s 16-month-old twins slept, seriously wounded his mother-in-law in the head, and shot a family dog.

Gellatly, 46, has been charged with murder, attempted murder, larceny of a motor vehicle, first-degree assault of an elderly person, two counts of reckless endangerment, home invasion, first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery.

He has pleaded innocent to all charges. He is being held in lieu of a $2 million bond. His case is still pending.