Secret list of violent felons will stay secret for at least another year
HARTFORD — Changes to the state’s secret list of violent felons, including possibly opening it up for public scrutiny, will have to wait until next year.
The proposal became a victim of the short session of the General Assembly, after leaders of the powerful Judiciary Committee cut it from the 13-week agenda. The panel failed to raise the bill for a public hearing during a meeting on its initial deadline day last Friday.
State Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the panel, said Monday that two other pieces of gun-safety legislation have taken precedence over the list of violent criminals.
Under state law as part of the 2013 responses to the Sandy Hook School massacre, all the information contained in the registry, including photos, names and hometowns of the 1,875 people currently on the list, is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Most people convicted of violent crimes have to agree to register annually for five years after their release from prison.
“We received hundreds and hundreds of concepts, ideas and proposals this year,” Stafstrom said. “We unfortunately had to be very selective in the number of topics raised.” Last year three major gun-safety measures were approved, including requirements that even unloaded guns be safely locked.
Stafstrom said that one of this year’s gun reforms would amend the nearly 20-year-old risk-protective orders, in which judges and police officers can observe someone deemed a possible danger to themselves and others, and seize their firearms for a year.
Under the proposal, which Stafstrom expects to announce in an upcoming news conference, private citizens would be able to go to local courthouses and apply to judges themselves to remove weapons from relatives or neighbors.
“So if someone has concerns about their spouse, they could walk into a courthouse and fill out an affidavit for judges to review, sign and turn over to police,” Stafstrom said. Another proposal would allow a so-called stand-your-ground law to provide legal protections for people armed with guns in places of worship.
Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, on Monday agreed that modernizing protective orders, including fixing possible loopholes that can keep firearms in the hands of potentially dangerous people, is an important priority.
“Right now the way it’s set up is that the judge can only issue an order up to a year and we would like to see that modified to give the court greater discretion and to make sure that before somebody gets their guns back, they are not longer a threat to themselves or others,” Stein said in an interview. “But under current law that’s not the case. Under current law you get the guns back after a year.”
Stein said he’s also working on legislation to create a permanent state commission to tackle gun violence.
Ultimately, Stein would like a state registry of all gun owners, particularly those who move into the state who own firearms and are currently not required to register them in Connecticut. “There is no way for law enforcement to know how many guns exist in the state of Connecticut,” Stein said.
As for the Deadly Weapon Offender Registry, Stafstrom said he expects the committee to review the efficacy of keeping it secret. He said he would like to also look at the public Sex Offender Registry, which might contain the names, photographs and locations of people who were convicted of certain offenses but are really not much of a public threat.
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