WINDSOR, Conn. — Part of the bipartisan gun reform agreement by U.S. Senate lawmakers includes funding to help states create and implement red flag laws.
On that front, Connecticut is ahead of the curve with a red flag law in place for more than two decades now, which advocates say helps keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Gov. Ned Lamont was joined by public safety officials, lawmakers and gun safety advocates Tuesday at the Windsor Police Department to highlight how this law has saved lives over the years.
The law grants law enforcement the legal authority to temporarily take away firearms from someone when there is probable cause to believe they are at significant risk of harm to themselves or others.
“When we had our red flag laws go in, our number of suicides, gun-related suicides, went down by a third in the state of Connecticut,” said Lamont.
Connecticut was the first state in the nation to adopt a red flag law in 1999 after a devastating mass shooting at the Connecticut Lottery.
“These red flag laws work at that really critical intersection of access from a person who is a danger to themselves or to others, limiting their access to a weapon in that moment, that impulsive act,” said Democratic State Rep. Maria Horn, who represents the 64th District.
“In the early years, it was maybe 30-40 times a year. After Georgia Tech, it went up to like 100, 120, 130 times per year and after Sandy Hook it’s up in the 200 range, so that’s about how frequently it’s being used. From the inception, Connecticut’s red flag law was designed to be a last resort, in other words when law enforcement have no other options,” said Mike Lawlor, Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven. Lawlor is also a former prosecutor, legislator and the governor's Criminal Justice Advisor.
Updates to Connecticut’s red flag law took effect on June 1, 2022. The update allows family and certain medical professionals to petition a judge for a risk warrant.
Previously, only police or the state’s attorney were authorized to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms.
The update also ensures that people whose firearms have been removed can not go out and buy additional firearms, and people must now apply to have the order terminated instead of the order expiring after one year.
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