November 17, 2005
HUNTING DEATHS RELATED TO FIREARMS
By: Paul Frisman, Associate Analyst
You asked about the number of hunting-related gun deaths in Connecticut, and whether they are decreasing or increasing. You also asked if a particular incident resulted in a change in the hunting laws or regulations.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), there have been six hunting-related deaths in Connecticut since 1982 that resulted from a shooting. One death occurred in 1992, one in 1994, one in 1996, two in 1998, and one in 1999. Criminal charges were brought in connection with five of these deaths. We could discern no trend in these figures.
In 2000, the legislature enacted PA 00-142, An Act Concerning Hunting Safety. In his testimony in favor of the bill (attached), DEP Commissioner Art Rocque, referring to the 1998 fatal shooting of conservation officer James Spignesi Jr. in Scotland, called for stricter penalties to punish the “small segment” of hunters ignoring the hunting laws.
AN ACT CONCERNING HUNTING SAFETY
PA 00-142 (attached), which took effect October 1, 2000, creates four degrees of the crime of negligent hunting and prohibits hunting while under the influence of, or impaired by, alcohol or drugs. It imposes enhanced penalties for persistent offenders, and generally requires the person arrested for these crimes to surrender his weapon.
HUNTING-RELATED GUN DEATHS
In 1992, a hunter was charged with second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting a jogger in Morris. According to DEP, the hunter was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a pretrial diversion program granted at a court's discretion to eligible defendants whom the court does not believe will offend again.
In 1994, a hunter in Killingly was killed by a single shot from his own muzzle-loading rifle, apparently triggered when he dropped the weapon.
In 1996, a hunter in Newtown shot another hunter who was using a predator call to attract coyotes, apparently believing the call was being made by a turkey. The shooter was charged with criminally negligent homicide and first-degree reckless endangerment. We were unable to learn the disposition of this case.
In 1998, a hunter in Coventry shot a man he said he mistook for a deer. According to DEP, he was convicted of manslaughter with a firearm and other charges.
Also in 1998, a hunter fatally shot conservation officer Spignesi while Spignesi and another conservation officer were checking for hunting violations in Scotland. The shooter was charged with second-degree manslaughter. He was acquitted after a jury trial.
In 1999, a hunter in Woodbridge apparently accidentally shot and killed another member of his hunting party. According to DEP, he was convicted of criminally negligent homicide.