The following is a guest post by Brooke Cheney.
Brooke is a competitive shooter (IDPA), certified Range Safety Officer, certified firearms instructor, and an active CCDL member. She owns A Great Start Shooting School in Harwinton, CT.
This article was originally published in the Republican-American newspaper.
Even if they’ve never set foot in a courtroom, Americans know they have the right to “tell it to the judge.” This fundamental right, known as the right to due process, is the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. It’s a right our Colonial ancestors didn’t enjoy. As subjects of the British crown, they routinely were abused by government agents who brought false, baseless charges against innocent people. Our ancestors had no right to tell their side of the stories, face their accusers or demand evidence of crimes.
Today, Connecticut lawmakers are debating a bill that would take us back to the days when the government trampled our rights and freedoms. Under House Bill 5054 and others, the government could seize a person’s firearms without giving him a chance to tell his side of the story or face his accuser in court. He wouldn’t even have to be accused of a crime. Under this bill, a law-abiding citizen could be forced to hand over his firearms based solely on a brief statement by an accuser. Innocent people would have no right to defend themselves before being deprived of property and due process.
Our Constitution is under assault. Gun-control groups are trying to undermine our freedoms and chip away at our constitutional protections. Supporters of H.B. 5054 claim they want to protect victims of domestic violence by taking firearms from the accused. However, under this proposal, there is no way to know if they are taking the guns away from the abuser or the abused.
As a firearms instructor, I have heard many stories of women choosing to become educated with firearms to defend themselves against their abusers. This bill could leave victims of domestic violence defenseless. A better approach would be to change the attitudes and behaviors of the abusers, and promote measures enabling victims to defend themselves.
A tragic case in New Jersey illustrates the folly of gun-control laws. Carol Bowne, 39, of Berlin, N.J., was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend. Bowne had applied for a firearms permit in an attempt to defend herself — months before she was attacked. Bowne was granted a restraining order, but she knew it was only a piece of paper and would not protect her if her ex-boyfriend chose not to abide by it. But New Jersey’s gun-control laws prevented her from being able to defend herself.
This tragedy also shows that if you take away guns from domestic abusers, they will find other weapons, or acquire firearms illegally.
H.B. 5054 is part of the fear-based agenda Connecticut lawmakers have adopted in recent years. In 2013, they imposed a ban on magazines with capacities greater than 10 rounds, banned all new general-purpose sporting rifles (a measure that was found ineffective because of the rarity of crimes committed with these rifles based on the federal assault-weapons ban of 1994), and imposed registration on all of the state’s existing rifles — while ignoring the suggestions from the FBI’s multi-year study on how to prevent school shootings.
H.B. 5054 is ripe for abuse by angry, bitter domestic partners, unhappy neighbors or coworkers, anyone who just doesn’t like you. Our lives can be messy, and motives are not always clear. But what is clear is our right under the Constitution to defend ourselves against an accuser and tell our side of the story.
I urge Connecticut’s lawmakers to reject H.B. 5054, no matter how well-intentioned the proponents are.
NOTE: The Judiciary Committee will be debating this and other related bills this coming Monday, March 28th. We urge members to call or email members of the committee and tell them not to strip domestic violence victims of their ability to defend themselves from violent abusers without the opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge.