'Turn In Your Neighbor'
Connecticut Law
Confiscates Guns
Without Crime
By Edward G. Oliver
© 1999
Ominously dubbed the "turn in your neighbor" law, a new Connecticut gun control provision -- which proponents predicted would be rarely used -- has already resulted in police seizing firearms and ammunition from four gun owners since Oct. 1 when the law took effect.
Hailed as groundbreaking by gun control advocates, the law reportedly opens up a new frontier for gun laws in the coming election season.
As originally written, the provision would have allowed seizure of firearms by police based on unproven allegations by any two persons in an affidavit to a judge. The language was later modified to require that two police officers or a state's attorney go before a judge with the belief, after investigation, that an individual "poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to other individuals," in order to obtain a warrant to seize the subject's firearms. No crime needs to have been committed for the seizure to take place.
Alleged threatening behavior, cruelty to animals, alcohol and drug abuse or prior confinement in a psychiatric facility can be considered by a judge in assessing whether an individual poses an imminent risk of danger. The law requires that a hearing be held within 14 days of the firearm seizure, although critics say in practice the 14-day hearing will be delayed for months. If the subject is proven at the hearing to be an "imminent risk," he loses his firearms for one year.
Thompson Bosee, of Greenwich, Conn., had his guns and ammunition seized by police on Oct. 29 under the new law. Bosee told WorldNetDaily he suspects that a neighbor, with whom he has had words regarding the neighbor's driving on Bosee's property, might have reported him.
"They had a warrant for my guns, they arrested my guns," said Bosee. A member of both the NRA and the American Gunsmithing Association, Bosee said he works on his guns in his garage and is not ashamed of it. Police simultaneously served a "failure to appear" warrant from an eight-year-old traffic charge.
Although Greenwich Police would not comment, they released a list of the guns and ammunition they seized from Bosee, including six handguns, three rifles, one shotgun, one submachine gun and 3,108 rounds of ammunition.
A spokeswoman from Handgun Control Inc. told WorldNetDaily, "The gun lobby likes to use scare tactics in order to frighten people away from any kind of reasonable gun control laws. We support the law. It has to meet a pretty strict standard, we feel it is in the general interest of the person themselves as well as the general public. We think there should be an outlet for families to say, `Look, my sister or my cousin is showing signs of losing it, we know he has a gun, we want to make sure he can't hurt himself or others.' They should have that option." Asked if HCI would like to see the law in other states, she answered, "If other states want a similar law, we certainly would support it."
To many, the "gun lobby" means the National Rifle Association. However, a spokesman described the NRA's position on the issue to WorldNetDaily only as "neutral."
But Jerry Tramontano of the Gun Owners Action League, likened the provision, which was tacked onto an instant check bill, to the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. The GOA has been a long-standing opponent of instant check, he told WorldNetDaily, believing it amounts to a national registration database. Lamenting what he sees as a lukewarm defense of the Second Amendment in Connecticut, he said, "Look what happens when you're willing to compromise a little -- you get a lot," adding that one of the law's victims is already planning a constitutional challenge.
Attorney Ralph Sherman, chairman of Connecticut's pro-gun "Gunsafe" group acknowledged that the search and seizure provision, which he opposes, did result from a compromise on the total gun bill the NRA supported. The Connecticut legislature is not very "pro-gun," he said, but is divided on the issue. The state would have ended up with an even worse bill had gun rights advocates not compromised, he said. The huge Firearms Safety Act had 20 provisions attached to it, some of which were positive for gun owners, he said.
The so-called "turn in your neighbor" provision allows for the issuance of a search warrant without the necessity of meeting the basic constitutional requirement of probable cause, said Sherman. Probable cause, he explained, means there must be good reason to believe that the items being searched for are connected to a crime -- not just a general feeling that somebody might commit a crime someday.
The law's cruelty to animals justification for gun seizure scares him the most. "If I throw a rock or a newspaper at a dog in my yard or in my garden, that doesn't mean I'm mentally unbalanced. What if a neighbor doesn't like me and sees that?"
The law also violates the due process principle, Sherman said, which establishes that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. If someone points a weapon at another without justification and threatens his life, said Sherman, "fine, take the gun or knife or can of gasoline away and arrest him." But a verbal threat like "I'm going to get you someday," happens all the time, and is not justification for seizing guns, he said. "Police can always seize property in connection with a crime. The purpose of search and seizure is to get evidence that somebody committed a crime."
Joe Graborz, Executive Director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, an affiliate of the ACLU, told WorldNetDaily the law "continues to invest unusual and far-reaching powers in police authority that does not belong there" by requiring "police to act as psychologists in trying to predict and interpret behavior." He said the warrant can be issued on just the complaint of two police officers, without the need for anything more as far as suspicion of a crime having been committed. "What is the standard of proof on this, where the police authority acting as the government violate your right to be safe and sound from undue interference in your own home? The way this law is written, it can and will be easily abused by police."
In the wake of a recent shooting by a Xerox worker in Hawaii, Handgun Control spokeswoman Naomi Paiss told ABC news that the already heavily gun-controlled state could use the law Connecticut just passed. The ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in Connecticut, Republican Rep. Robert Farr, seemed to concur, telling WorldNetDaily: "The idea is to get the guns away from individuals that clearly shouldn't have them."
At a Nov. 4 panel discussion on the controversial law at the Hartford Statehouse, Democratic Rep. Richard Tulisiano said he opposes the provision mainly on Fourth Amendment grounds, declaring, "We've created the home invasion under color of law." Anything found in the search for guns can be used against you, said Tulisiano, such as cash, which will be confiscated as drug money.
"Anybody with money is going to be a drug dealer, a dog will sniff it, all money is tainted," he said
Farr defended the law, citing the example of a mentally troubled war veteran in his district as the first to have his guns seized, saying that's what it is designed to do -- prevent trouble before it happens. There is no "magical line" at a citizen's front door, Farr added, noting that police can enter without a warrant in many emergencies. It is difficult with current gun laws to get firearms away from mentally disturbed persons, said Farr. "I'm willing to risk them losing guns for 14 days, than having a tragedy."
A member of the Pistol Permit Review Board, M. Peter Kuck, said, "I find this law to be pretty dangerous, Does this sound like America to you? It's not the America I grew up in."