Domestic violence, violence against women, or really, any violence is unacceptable. Oftentimes we’re approached with irrational and ineffectual solutions to complex problems. There are many “feel good” measures that get introduced by the left of center members of congress, and all they’re good for is political grandstanding. Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut introduced S.2169 – Lori Jackson-Nicolette Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act on June 22, 2021. A companion bill, H.R.4139, was introduced two days following the introduction of the Senate version, by Congressman James Himes. On Wednesday May 18, 2022 the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution met and received testimony on the legislation.
The biggest problem with this legislation and other legislation like it, is that there are provisions that lack due process for the accused. All too often we’ve seen legislation like this weaponized by people, or used to disarm the intended victims. The provision from the bill text that is of specific concern is as follows:
(ii) in the case of an ex parte order, relative to which notice and opportunity to be heard are provided—
“(I) within the time required by State, Tribal, or territorial law; and
“(II) in any event within a reasonable time after the order is issued, sufficient to protect the due process rights of the person;
When is the justice system in any jurisdiction ever comporting to what a reasonable man would say is a “reasonable time”? Further, anyone inflicted with one of these orders would have to subsequently fight to get their firearms. That in certain jurisdictions could take a whole other act of congress.
Representing freedom at the hearing was DC Project super hero and Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Holly Sullivan. Sullivan stood for our civil liberties in speaking against any measure that accepts ex parte issuance of gun seizure orders in the proposed legislation. Sullivan was joined on her journey to DC by DC Project New Jersey Delegate Theresa Inacker, who could be seen seated behind Senator Ron Wyden during the testimony. Sullivan gave a very impassioned testimony and was met with mostly adverse reactions from the committee, excepting Senator Cruz, who was embracing of what Sullivan had to say. It was fantastic to hear and watch Sullivan. Some of the testimony that she delivered:
I am here today to share my professional knowledge, personal experience, and the experiences of thousands of women across America. My testimony will challenge this proposal’s intended impact and consequences and ensure this committee responsibly upholds its duty to the Constitution and the American people, especially women who are threatened by domestic violence.
I hope that this body will identify opportunities to empower women to prevent them from becoming victims, support programs that prevent violence, treat mental illness in all its stages, and ultimately heal broken hearts and broken homes across the nation.
Southbury is a town of 19,000 residents located directly between Newtown and Oxford, Connecticut. My community is no stranger to tragedies. There are altering days in life when you realize nothing will ever be the same. On December 14, 2012, I gathered with hundreds of people in Sandy Hook to leave stuffed animals, flowers, and candles for the 26 lives lost. I also vividly recall the day of the inexcusable murder of Lori Jackson in my neighboring town of Oxford. I was a young mother of a 7-month-old baby girl. I remember the sirens and waves of fear, calls of concern, and news that there was a manhunt underway. The search for her killer took six hours. It took me right back to 2012.
However, my path is a little different from some of the women you might expect to hear from on a bill like this intended to protect domestic violence victims. My perspective differs because I was raised with education in gun safety and firearm awareness. I did not fully appreciate the importance of this until I had something greater than myself to defend- my child.
Sullivan is right to take responsibility for her safety and the safety of her child. The police cannot protect us all, all the time. In fact, they’re often the cleanup crew. One of the stories told during the hearing on Wednesday involved a woman seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO), and she asked her local law enforcement officer what can she do. She asked about how she can be protected. The officer poked a writing instrument through a piece of paper, indicating the TRO is just a useless piece of paper. Unless the paper is made of graphene and can wrap completely around an individual, it does nothing to actually protect people. The often cited tragic story of New Jersey’s Carol Bowne and her being stabbed to death, not shot, proves this fact. Bowne was no less murdered because it was done with a knife, rather than having a firearm used on her.
Sullivan’s testimony addressed some of the holes in the legislation and what no one’s talking about from the story of whom the bill is in part named of:
Scott Gellatly, Lori’s estranged husband, purchased his handgun in Virginia and transported it back to Connecticut. This act was prohibited by federal law. Gellatly purchased the handgun via a private transaction that did not include a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check and subsequent alert– which is the linchpin of this proposed legislation.
As written, this bill does not, in any way, address the circumstances of the horrific killing of Lori Jackson. Women struggling with domestic violence must understand where this bill falls short in protecting them. You may wonder how I know with complete confidence that this bill will not result in the desired outcome. I have lived under this very law in my home state for five years.
The legislation was named in part after Lori Jackson, a domestic violence victim who was murdered by her estranged husband. There was a restraining order in place and it did not protect her. Sullivan pointed out that the firearm purchased was a pistol and bought in Virginia, already a federal crime. Jackon’s sister, several times during her own testimony stated the gun was purchased “legally”. If Jackson’s husband was a resident of Connecticut, he would have been barred from purchasing a handgun “legally” in another state. That’s already the law. What happened was tragic, but regardless of there being a NICS ineligibility put on someone’s record, if they’re willing to drive to Virginia to purchase a firearm, they’re certainly able and probably willing to purchase one that’s been straw purchased, or stolen if they were barred from possession.
Sullivan addressed the fact that gun owners don’t always have a seat at the table. She acted as our voice in the Senate in advocating for our rights:
In Connecticut and several other states across the country, gun owners are excluded from discussing how to remedy an issue– one in which they are subject matter experts. Two-thirds of all fatality statistics related to “gun violence” are suicides. Nevertheless, in Connecticut, the very people who have access to firearms are generally not invited to participate in the forums to craft policy that directly impacts them. Recent legislation leaves the community of individuals with access to firearms uncomfortable seeking help for fear of false red flag complaints without meaningful penalty for perjury. In Connecticut and other states with similar laws, anyone can be subject to firearm confiscation without being charged with a crime and without due process.
Groups like Hold My Guns are doing outstanding lifesaving work. However, they are hindered by onerous firearm transfer laws, preventing the outcome that is most desired: safety and security. Connecticut’s gun laws are some of the strictest in the country, but they are far from the gold standard we should aspire to as a nation. Connecticut’s hyper-focus on gun restrictions often means that the legislature finds a solution in need of a problem as often as a problem in need of a solution.
Bravo Ms. Sullivan. And while no one there thanked you or congratulated you for your courage, like Jackson’s sister was over and over again, I’ll thank you. I’ll thank you for your courage in setting the record straight, marching into a viper pit, and even for being strong armed into being “put on the record”, with a splash of a little mansplaining from Blumenthal at one point. It was a pleasure to get to watch and listen to your testimony, even though I vomited a little in my mouth when I had to watch and listen to Dianne Feinstein address you and the others (when she “woke up” and was alerted of who she was supposed to address next). So thank you!
The right to keep and bear arms is granted by our creator. The threshold in order for that to be taken away has to be quite high. Ex parte hearings that don’t involve immediate seizure due to gross violent acts do not meet constitutional muster. We’ll be watching the progress of this legislation as it advances in both the Senate and House.
Holly Sullivan’s testimony can be read in full HERE. The meeting link HERE will take you to a video of the full Senate Committee meeting. Select portions of Sullivan’s testimony can be viewed in the embed below: