The Connecticut state legislature is considering expanding the state’s “red flag” law to allow family members and “medical professionals” to the list of people who can request that a judge confiscate a person’s firearms.
The proposal also eliminates the expiration date on red flag orders and would force the person whose guns were seized to prove they are no longer a danger to themselves or others.
Connecticut’s current red flag law, which has been on the books since 1999, only allows police officers and prosecutors to petition a judge for a confiscation order. Proponents of the bill want family members to be able to take matters into their own hands.
“We simply can no longer have a system that’s dependent solely on the response of a 911 dispatcher and a police department as the only resource someone has when they’re in a crisis,” Connecticut resident Jennifer Lawlor said at the hearing, according to the Associated Press.
“Family members are often the first to recognize when their loved one is in crisis, so it is crucial they have a way to directly petition the court to temporarily remove guns from those who could be a risk to themselves or others,” she continued.
The bill defines “family member” to include a laundry list of relations and non-relations, including step-family members, in-laws, people living in the same house, dating partners, former legal guardians, and someone who has a child in common with the person in the complaint.
“Medical professionals” can include registered nurses, psychologists, and social workers.
Opponents of the bill argue that the proposal would allow people to use red flag orders to harass members of their family with whom they have a grudge.
“My fear is all it would take would be one word from a spurned partner to the judge whose going on one side without any evidence,” Connecticut resident Dr. Walter Kupson said at the hearing.
Others worry that the bill will disincentivize people from seeking medical treatment for fear that their psychologist will seek an order to confiscate their firearms.
“I want to urge you to deeply consider the impact this bill will have on mental health in our state. I have, on several occasions, spoken with women gun owners who were afraid to get basic counseling for very common issues like post partem blues, eating disorders or marriage counseling for fear that there will be an impact on their right to self-defense,” said Holly Sullivan, President of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.
“Under this bill, I am certain that more women will avoid seeking basic mental health over the concern they will be disarmed unfairly,” Sullivan added.
After 180 days, the person whose firearms were confiscated can petition the court to release their firearms. But they must “prove by a preponderance of the evidence at a hearing of the court” that they “no longer pose an immediate risk of personal injury to themselves or other individuals.”
If the court denies the petition, the person may not file a subsequent petition until at least 180 days after the date on which the court denied the petition.
The Judiciary Committee has not yet voted on the bill.