Unique law lets police seize guns before a crime is committed
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.
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.