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Proposal would expand CT ‘red flag’ laws for firearm access

A 9 mm pistol and ammunition sit on top of an AF Form 1314 Firearms Registration form and a DD Form 2760 Qualification to Possess Firearms or Ammunitions form at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 10, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J. T. Armstrong)

Leaders of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee are proposing changes to the state’s “red flag” laws that would allow for more people to report at-risk behavior and allow for indefinite prohibition to access firearms for those deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.

Committee co-chairmen Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, and Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, outlined their proposal Wednesday.

The measure would allow family members, members of a household, and certain medical professionals to petition courts to issue a risk warrant or protection order that would allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms.

Medical professionals included under the bill are licensed physicians and their assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, and psychologists who have examined patients.

While current law only allows for the confiscation of a person’s firearms, it doesn’t prohibit the person from purchasing a gun, which the new proposal aims to change.

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The bill also would allow for a single police officer to apply for a warrant, rather than the current requirement of two.

Finally, instead of being applicable for one year, an order preventing a person from owning a firearm would be indefinite under the new proposal. Those who are prohibited from owning a gun under the new measure would be able to make their case for reinstatement each 180 days.

Proponents of the bill say it is an effort to intervene early when a person is showing signs of distress and may commit a violent act involving themselves or others.

By allowing people to petition a court, proponents hope situations would not escalate by contacting law enforcement, but police still would be an option for those wishing to begin the process of obtaining a risk warrant.

The changes would be the first significant adjustments to the state’s red flag laws in two decades.

Stafstrom said current laws have helped save lives, but he and Winfield are pushing to broaden Connecticut’s laws to coincide with adjustments made in other states.

“While Connecticut led the way with its own risk warrant law in 1999, numerous states have since passed stronger measures and it is time for our state to do the same,” Winfield said. “Strengthening Connecticut’s ability to remove firearms from individuals who may harm themselves or others is an important piece of making our communities safer. Together we can save lives.”

Stafstrom said there have been more than 1,000 requests for risk warrants filed since 2015, “a dramatic uptick” since the law was implemented in 1999.

The proposal is being lauded by gun reform activists as an effort to prevent gun deaths.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday.

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