CT School Shooting Puts Gun-Seizure Law in Focus

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Connecticut school shooting at an elementary school in Newtown has unfortunately claimed at least 27 lives, police say.

About 9:30 a.m. Friday, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and proceeded to open fire, killing six teachers and 20 students. The gunman was found dead at the scene.

A tragedy like this will undoubtedly raise questions about gun control laws. But in this case, Connecticut's laws are already pretty strict; in fact, the state has a unique law that was designed to prevent mass shootings like this one.

Connecticut lawmakers approved the nation's first and only gun-seizure law more than a decade ago, reports Hartford's WTNH-TV. The law allows citizens to report individuals who they think are capable of mass violence, according to Connecticut's Office of Legislative Research.

To protect Second Amendment rights, the issue of whether an individual is objectively capable of a dangerous attack rests on specific criteria, according to the law. That could include threats of violence or cruelty to animals, reckless displays of a gun, prior confinement in a psychiatric facility, or drug or alcohol abuse.

If someone fits these criteria and is reported to police, officers can investigate and seize the person's guns. Then a judge decides whether the guns should be returned.

The court can also order the individual to undergo a mental health evaluation, according to the law.

The gun-seizure law was created specifically in response to shootings by disgruntled or mentally unstable citizens. It was proposed after a mass workplace shooting at the Connecticut State Lottery in 1998.

No other gun-seizure law like this exists in the country, and it isn't necessarily well-known in Connecticut either. Even if it was, that's no guarantee that people will notice and report unusual behavior.

In Friday's Connecticut school shooting, the gun-seizure law may not have helped, as the guns were legally owned by the gunman's mother, who was also found dead. Multiple investigations are now underway to determine what may have led to the tragedy.

Dec. 17, 2012 Editor's Note: This post was updated with new details about Friday's shooting.

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