Research has shown that the presence of a gun in a household where domestic violence exists significantly increases the risk of homicide in the home. A recent study revealed that out of all the murder cases involving female victims, 40 percent to 50 percent were killed by their husband, boyfriend, or ex. For male homicide victims, the percentage killed by their partners lies between 5 and 8 percent. Consequently, over the past several decades, many states have enacted aggressive laws restricting gun ownership rights in domestic violence situations.
Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. The state laws provide a broader definition of domestic violence than federal law so it is necessary to understand the difference. If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is important that you know how this will affect your gun rights. Read on for more information about gun ownership and how it relates to your domestic violence case.
The History of Restricting Gun Ownership
There are several federal and state-level laws relating to the rights to gun ownership after someone has been charged with a violent crime. In 1968, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the federal government passed legislation drastically changing gun ownership rights. This new law prohibited anyone convicted of a felony from owning a gun.
In 1996, federal law expanded to ban anyone who was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a firearm. The law defined misdemeanor criminal domestic violence as any crime that “has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.”
In 2016, Connecticut expanded its own laws relating to domestic violence. The new law further protected victims of domestic violence, prohibiting anyone under a temporary restraining order from owning a gun. Previously, only persons who were the subject of a permanent restraining order were prohibited from possessing a gun.
What Cases Require Gun Owners to Give up Their Weapons?
Connecticut has strict gun laws and many domestic violence crimes fall under the guidelines of either federal or state laws. If you have been accused of any of the following, you may be forced to relinquish your firearms.
- Stalking in the second degree
- Physical violence against a member of the accused person’s household. As defined by Connecticut law this includes a child, spouse, parent, anyone you share a child with (regardless of marital status), a former partner, or anyone living in the same household.
- Threats of violence against a member of the accused’s household
- You are subject to a temporary, permanent, or ex parte restraining order
If you were charged with domestic violence, it will be accompanied by a protective order which requires you to either stay away from the victim altogether or limits your interactions with the victim. In addition, you must relinquish all firearms to a federally licensed gun deal, emergency services, or the public protection commissioner (i.e. the state police) within two business days of receiving the order. You will also need to dispose of all ammunition or give it to someone legally permitted to possess a firearm.
Will I Have to Forfeit My Gun if I Wasn’t Found Guilty of a Crime?
Upon responding to a call for domestic violence, officers have the authority to immediately remove any firearms or ammunition that are in plain view. This means that you do not need to be found guilty or even formally charged before you are asked to surrender your firearms.
Furthermore, if someone files a restraining order against you, they will be given the opportunity to indicate whether they are aware of any firearms in your possession. If they allege the presence of firearms and you in fact have firearms, you will be forced to turn over any guns in your possession.
However, all firearms and ammunition removed from your home must be returned within seven days unless there is a court order stating otherwise. The court must hold a hearing within 14 days of the seizure of your firearms to determine whether they should be returned to your possession. If it is determined that you pose an immediate risk, the court can keep the weapons for up to one year.
What Happens if I Refuse to Relinquish My Guns?
It is both a federal and state felony offense to possess a firearm when you are not legally permitted to do so. Refusal to comply with an order to hand over your firearms, failure to disclose all of your firearms, or acquiring new weapons during a period in which you are not legally allowed to do so could result in federal or state charges. These charges can result in a mandatory sentence of two years in prison. It is never advisable to attempt to retain possession of your firearms when you are ordered to relinquish them or acquire new weapons while you are the subject of a restraining order. If you believe that your rights are being violated, do not attempt to handle the matter yourself. A criminal defense attorney is best qualified to advise you of the steps you should take.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help Defend Your Rights
There are many circumstances where you may find yourself accused of domestic violence or facing a restraining order. Often, false allegations can arise during times of domestic disputes or ongoing legal battles. If you are accused of domestic abuse or were asked to relinquish possession of your firearms, call an experienced domestic violence attorney right away so that you can learn more about your rights.