A former Connecticut police officer was sitting at home minding his own business when five state troopers arrived with a warrant to seize all of his legally-owned firearms. The 76-year-old man had committed no crime, had no history of violence, was not under arrest, and was not being charged, but the state police still seized more than 80 guns from the man’s home pursuant to a Firearm Safety Warrant. Connecticut is one of just five states to allow this type of controversial warrant, though many more are considering them in light of recent tragedies involving gun violence.
Firearm Safety Warrants
In 1999, the Connecticut Legislature passed what lawmakers called “risk warrant” legislation. The law allows courts to issue firearm seizure warrants based on reports from the general public that a person (gun owner) poses an immediate threat of personal injury to themselves or others. The subject of such a warrant does not need to have broken any laws in order for the seizure to be conducted. The police can hold seized firearms for up to two weeks while a hearing is scheduled. At the hearing, a judge then determines the status of the guns. Some are returned to the owner immediately, others are held for up to one year, and a small number are forfeited and sold or destroyed.
Threats of Self-Harm
In the case of the retired police officer, the warrant had been issued as the result of a statement the man had made to a medical technician. The technician had come to the man’s house to pick up a hospital bed, following the death of the man’s wife several days before the seizure. According to reports, the grief-stricken man told the technician that he was ready to burn his entire house and shoot himself. He had just lost his wife, and his only daughter lost her battle with cancer in 2015. “What else do I have to lose?” he later recounted saying.
When the police arrived to execute the warrant, the man was cooperative but puzzled. The risk warrant applied only to the firearms in the house, and the police left nearly 20 bottles of prescription medication—mostly his wife’s—sitting on the kitchen table. If the seizure was truly about safety, the man wondered, why didn’t the police sit down with him and find out how he was doing rather than just taking his guns? “Pills, knives, ropes, belts, cars—there are so many other ways if I really wanted to do it,” the man said.
A Norwich Superior Court judge examined the situation and determined that the man’s threats of self-harm were a product of his grief and did not truly present a danger to anyone. She ordered his guns to be returned to him immediately.
Protecting Your Rights
Personal freedoms must always be balanced with promoting public safety, but measures such as risk warrants can create serious problems for law-abiding citizens. If you or someone you love has been the subject of a Firearm Safety Warrant, you need an experienced Connecticut weapons charges attorney on your side. We will help you understand your options and ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation today.