Connecticut was one of the few states where Democrats managed to expand their legislative majority on Election Day, and with anti-gun politicians in firm control of state government from the governor on down, they’re looking to further erode the right to keep and bear arms in the state.
Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport and the co-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says revisions to the state’s red flag law are on the table when lawmakers convene for the 2021 session.
Stafstrom says he will push for a so-called clean-slate bill that would allow ex-offenders to have their criminal records cleared if they stay out of trouble for a period of time, such as 10 years. A proponent of adult-use cannabis, Stafstrom said it could pass this year. A third issue is a revision to the state’s “red flag” law that allows neighbors and family members to report people with firearms who might be a danger to themselves or others.
The current law which dates back more than 20 years, allows two law enforcement officers or a prosecutor to apply to the courts for a firearm-seizure warrant. “At least a dozen other states allow a spouse or parent, even a medical professional to apply for a risk-protective order,” he said.
I have issues with red flag laws in general, but broadening the law to allow family members or even neighbors to initiate an Extreme Risk Protective Order opens up the door for even more abuse than the law already allows. In Virginia, where I live, we’ve already seen at least one red flag case tossed out after the family members who sought to have guns seized failed to show up in court, though not before the gun owner had his firearms taken from him for a period of several weeks.
And let’s be clear here; while the impetus for approving the state’s red flag law 20 years ago was to reduce the number of suicides, they’ve still increased since the law has been on the books, rising from 320 suicides in 2000 to 424 suicides in 2019. Researchers have noted that while gun-related suicides declined by about 14% since 2007, non-gun related suicides increased at an even higher rate.
That’s another problem with red flag laws; they’re billed as some sort of mental health measure when they do nothing to treat those who are truly at-risk. Their guns might be taken from them, but their inner demons remain, and they’re left alone with their knives, matches, gasoline, car keys, belts, pills, and anything else that they might use to harm themselves or others.
Red flag laws typically don’t come with any sort of mental health treatment because they’re ultimately not about mental health. These are gun control laws masquerading as mental health measures. If Connecticut lawmakers push for expanding the state’s red flag law, lives won’t be saved, but rights will be lost.