California and New Jersey Are Considering Gun Seizure Laws

Authorities would be able to confiscate weapons if a person posed a threat.

A student lights a candle for the victims of the May 23 shooting in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Jul 6, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Gun violence continues to make headlines after the recent mass killing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Now lawmakers in California and New Jersey are considering regulations similar to a Connecticut law that allows for the temporary seizure of guns when there’s evidence that a person could be a danger to him- or herself or to others.

Michael Lawlor, Connecticut's undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, told the AP that if police knew about Adam Lanza’s mental health history, such a law could have prevented the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

“That’s the kind of situation where you see the red flags and the warning signs are there, and you do something about it,” said Lawlor. “In many shootings around the country, after the fact it’s clear that the warning signs were there.”

Connecticut passed the gun seizure law in 1999 after a worker with a history of psychiatric problems killed four other employees at the state’s lottery headquarters in 1998. The law mandates that a court can temporarily confiscate guns if police can provide proof that a person poses a potential threat. (Without a permit, handgun possession in the state is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.) A judge must hold a hearing within two weeks to decide whether to return the weapons or permit the state to hold them for up to one year. In 2009, Connecticut took away more than 2,000 guns. Indiana is the only other state with a similar regulation.

Gun proponents argue that seizure laws infringe on constitutional rights and that authorities abuse them. Their effectiveness is also debated. In the United States, roughly 90 people die from gun violence every day; two out of three are suicides. According to a state-by-state ranking by the Violence Policy Center, Connecticut had the fifth-lowest firearm-death rate in 2011, while Indiana had the 18th lowest rate.