Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-6490

Title:

AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PROCEDURE FOR RELIEF FROM CERTAIN FEDERAL FIREARMS PROHIBITIONS.

Vote Date:

3/30/2011

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/23/2011

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

The National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) is a national database that allows authorized users to check available records for an immediate response on persons disqualified from possessing firearms. Pursuant to the federal government requirement, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 05-283 which adopted procedures for entering the names of those disqualified from owning gun because of mental disabilities into the NICS index. The federal government is now requiring that all states adopt a procedure for 'relief from disabilities' by which a person whose name has been entered into the NICS index because of mental disabilities can seek relief. For states that fail to create such a program, grant money under the Omnibus Crime Control Act will be decreased on a yearly basis by certain percentages until such a program is implemented. This bill would allow Connecticut to certify to the US Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice that it has met the minimum requirements for compliance.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Mike Lawlor, Under Secretary, Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division, Office of Policy and Management: Strongly supports this bill which would establish a simple process to protect the constitutional rights of citizens who are subject to a prohibition of firearms possession under state and federal law. Failure to enact this bill would immediately jeopardize a number of substantial federal law enforcement and crime prevention grants which Connecticut hopes to receive this year and in future years.

Paul J. Knierim, Probate Court Administrator: Supports this bill that would establish a procedure in the probate courts to review the petitions of persons seeking to be removed from the NICS database. The probate courts are the appropriate forum to handle such cases because the determinations in conservatorship and commitment proceedings are also within the jurisdiction of the probate courts.

Deborah J. Fuller, External Affairs Division, Judicial Branch: Supports this bill because it is necessary in order to ensure that the state is eligible to receive federal funding under the NICS Improvement Act. Passage of this bill is necessary in order for the state to qualify for a grant that will be used to develop an enhanced computer system for records that result in firearms disqualifications.

Based on communications with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the agency that monitors compliance with the act, the External Affairs Division suggests slight amendments to this bill:

1. Amend lines 46-48 to provide that failure to provide requested information within the required time period may [shall] result in a denial of the petition.

2. Amend lines 82-85 to provide that [In order to grant relief under this section, the court must find] the court shall grant relief under this section if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that: …

Department of Public Safety: Supports passage of the bill because it would bring Connecticut into full compliance with the NICS Improvement Act. Also, this bill provides for a thorough review of the individual's mental health status, balancing public safety with individual rights. The Department of Public Safety encourages adoption of the proposed amendments as set forth by the External Affairs Division of the Judicial Branch.

Patricia Rehmer, Commissioner, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services: Supports this bill that would create a mechanism for individuals to petition the probate court for relief from federal firearms prohibitions in place due to various mental health adjudications. This relief program is mandated by the NICS Improvement Act and failure to comply prevents Connecticut State agencies from being considered for various federal grant programs. DMHAS also recommends the proposed amendments as set forth by the External Affairs Division of the Judicial Branch.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen: Supports this bill because it would establish a procedure by which people who are disqualified under federal law can “get their Right to Keep and Bear Arms back in Connecticut”. The organization cites an incident where a man who was temporarily incapacitated and had a conservator appointed for him is forever disqualified from having firearms despite his full recovery.

Paul Segnatelli: Supports this bill.

Salvatore Messina: Supports this bill.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Jeff Clark: Opposes this bill.

Reported by: Meredith Blake

Date: April 5, 2011