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Connecticut's Gun Confiscation Law First in Country.

Connecticut has become the first state in the country to allow police and the courts to confiscate guns from people who are deemed to present a danger to the community.

The law, which took effect in October, is expected to spur debate on similar measures in other states, and it reflects the struggle to deal with seemingly random mass killings, often in public places, that have shocked the nation.

Representative Michael Lawlor drafted the law as a response to a 1998 incident in which a 35-year-old accountant killed four fellow employees at the Connecticut State Lottery before putting the gun to his own head. Lawlor's bill won bipartisan support in the General Assembly, and Governor John Rowland praised the law as "creative and thoughtful, not a bit knee-jerk."

Among other provisions, the Act Concerning Firearm Safety authorizes police officers to confiscate guns from anyone deemed to be an immediate danger to himself or others. The law is the country's first to give police such sweeping powers to enter a home and seize guns.

To initiate a gun seizure, police must pursue reports that the gun owner poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to other individuals." Police are required to examine other means of defusing the threat, such as committing the gun owner to a mental health facility.

A police investigation must conclude that confiscating the weapon is the only way to prevent the owner from doing harm. A warrant must be issued by a judge. Under the law, a hearing must be held within 14 days to determine if the gun should be returned.

Critics have labeled the new law unconstitutional and an infringement on individual liberties. Local gun organizations and legislative opponents dubbed it the "turn in your neighbor" law. Critics also contend that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Joseph Grabarz, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut, said the law is an invitation to police abuse. "This proposal throws due process out the window," he said. "It throws the sanctity of one's home out the window, and it gives the police authority to act as psychologists on your doorstep."

Lawlor said he could understand critics who see the new law as "a slippery slope" toward the erosion of certain rights. But, he said, "we're not repealing the Constitution."
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Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1CT
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:398
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