HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords is coming to Connecticut to help promote the latest gun control proposals offered since the Newtown school shootings, but there are questions about whether the legislation is needed given an existing law on the books.
A bill, originally offered by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy during his re-election battle last year, would require subjects of a restraining or protective order to surrender their firearms and ammunition within 24 hours of being notified of the order. But veteran Republican state Rep. Arthur O'Neil contends that an existing law, enacted 15 years ago after another Connecticut mass shooting, already allows police to immediately seize guns from people who pose a risk to themselves or others.
"There's a law on the books right now where you can get the kind of protection that you need," O'Neill said of people who feel they're in danger from a spouse, ex-spouse or someone else in possession of a gun. "We don't need to wait until a new law gets passed."
Giffords, who was critically wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., has become a leading gun control activist, along with her husband Mark Kelly. She previously visited Connecticut and met with families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 20 first graders and six educators dead on Dec. 14, 2012.
She is scheduled to appear Tuesday at the state Capitol in Hartford with Malloy and the top Democratic leaders of the General Assembly to discuss the issue of gun violence in domestic violence situations, said Mark Prentice, a press secretary for Giffords' political organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions.
"She been talking a lot about this problem and using her voice to try to draw attention to this issue," said Prentice, who cited statistics that a woman is five times more likely to die if there is a gun involved in a domestic violence situation.
Connecticut passed a package of gun control measures in 2013, including an expanded assault weapons ban and a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines. While Malloy recently said there "was not a big appetite" in the state legislature "for even talking about guns at the moment in the state of Connecticut," he has pushed ahead this session with his campaign proposal to remove guns from subjects of restraining and protective orders.
"We know that the period of time immediately following a domestic violence victim's application for a restraining order is one of the most volatile, and access to a firearm in that situation presents an additional, outstanding threat," Malloy said in February. He said if a judge determines a victim is in danger enough that they should be granted a temporary restraining order, that victim "should not have to wait until they are fully protected."
After a temporary restraining order is issued, Malloy said a hearing must occur before a judge can issue a permanent restraining order and prohibit someone from possessing a firearm. Such hearings can occur weeks after the temporary order is issued.
While gun rights activists contend Malloy's proposal would remove guns without due process and create potential for abuse, O'Neill said current law would potentially lead to weapons being removed faster. Also, he pointed out how the current law, passed after the deadly workplace shooting at the Connecticut Lottery Corporation headquarters, includes safeguards for gun owners. For example, firearms cannot be seized unless there is a complaint filed to a superior court judge that there's probable cause to believe the person presents a danger to themselves or others.
O'Neill said lawmakers should focus on making sure more people know about the existing law on the books.
"It's a better law," he said. "It's a better-written law that does a better job."