The following is an Op-Ed from State Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112th):
In the time since the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook on December 14th there are many who have rushed to judgment about all kinds of topics; guns, mental health, psychotropic medications, school safety, parenting and a myriad of other issues.
As an elected official I have maintained it is not only irresponsible to do such but it is my duty to be thoughtful, deliberate and to gather all the relevant information before making the most educated decisions possible; decisions that impact our entire state.
I recognize the emotion of this situation as I have personally been deeply affected and changed by this tragedy. However, at a minimum I believed we should have waited until the Task Forces made their recommendations before publicly taking a stand on our positions. My intention was to respect the bipartisan process established by the legislature and reserve comment so as not to prejudice the process.
This week the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety officially released their findings. While caucus leaders meet to discuss the finer points of which specific proposals will be included in the final emergency certified bill I feel it’s now appropriate to let you, my constituents, neighbors and friends know that I will support the specific recommendations (I have attached them to the end of this letter) made by the bipartisan task force as presented during the public hearing process.
It is my sincere hope that this makes my positions clear and that my constituents will have confidence knowing an incredible amount of thought and discussion will continue to go into my votes as we progress through this very difficult time and legislative session.
With regard to guns, I support:
Universal Background Checks - Require completion of a national criminal background check in order to purchase any firearm in Connecticut.
Eligibility Certificates, Including Finger Prints and Completion of a Firearms Safety Course to Purchase Any Long Gun - Require possession of an eligibility certificate or pistol permit in order to purchase a long gun from any retail or private seller. Such eligibility certificate shall include a photograph of the holder of the certificate, and shall indicate that the holder has passed a national criminal background check, been fingerprinted and successfully completed a firearms safety course.
Increasing the Purchase Age to 21 For Certain Long Guns – Require persons be 21 or older in order to purchase a center fire rifle that accepts a magazine with a capacity exceeding ten rounds.
Increased Requirements to Purchase Ammunition and Magazines - Require possession of an eligibility certificate, pistol permit, or Connecticut hunting license in order to purchase ammunition or detachable ammunition magazines of any size. Prohibit persons ineligible to possess a firearm from purchasing ammunition or detachable ammunition magazines
Safeguards Extended to Internet Sales - Require for the purchase long guns or ammunition over the internet, a buyer shall provide evidence to the seller, that he is eligible to purchase long guns or ammunition.
Stricter Mental Health Look-backs - Increasing the look-back on pistol permits and eligibility certificates for involuntary psychiatric in-patient treatment of at least 30 days from 1 to 5 years, add voluntary commitments of at least 30 days, and emergency certification admissions of at least 15 days.
Expanding Safe Storage - Prohibiting persons from storing or keeping any firearm on any premises under his control if he knows or should reasonably know that a person who is mentally defective, is the subject of a restraining order, is the subject of a gun forfeiture order, is a convicted felon or anyone else prohibited from owning a gun, and is likely to gain access to the firearm unless 1) the firearm is kept securely in a locked box or other secure container or 2) the firearm is carried on the person to whom the firearm belongs or within close proximity thereto that it can be readily retrieved by such person.
Prohibition of Applications for Permits to Carry a Pistol From Any Jurisdiction Other than the Applicant’s Residence – Requiring that applications for a temporary state permit to carry a pistol or revolver be made in the jurisdiction that is the bona fide residence of the applicant.
No Early Release For Gun Crimes – Prohibiting persons who have been convicted of violent crimes that were committed with a firearm from participating in the earned risk reduction credit program.
Statewide Deadly Weapon Offender Registry - Establishing a registry through the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection that shall contain the names of persons who have been convicted of any felonies committed with a deadly weapon or who have been convicted of felony crimes that violate Connecticut’s firearm laws. Names shall remain on the list for five years following a conviction. Only law enforcement officials shall have access to such list, and the list shall not be available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act
Require Permits for Gun Shows - Require gun show promoters to obtain a permit from the local police chief or chief elected official prior to holding a gun show within a municipality.
Ban the Sale of Armor Piercing and Incendiary Bullets – Enacting a ban on all bullets specifically designed to be armor piercing or incendiary, regardless of caliber.
Reconstitute the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force - Reconstituting the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force and initially providing $1 million in funding.
Increase Penalties for Firearms Trafficking and Straw Purchasing - Amend the general statutes to:
- Increase the penalty to knowingly sell or otherwise transfer a pistol or revolver to someone that the transferor knows or has reason to believe is prohibited from owning a firearm under state or federal law to a Class B felony for all violations and to include trafficking of rifles and shotguns to prohibited persons by eliminating their current exemption and require a three year mandatory minimum and a $10,000 fine for all violations
- Increase the penalty for stealing a firearm to a D felony and require a two year mandatory minimum and $5,000 fine for all violations
- Increase the penalty on both the transferor and transferee for the illegal sale or transfer of a pistol or revolver to a Class D felony
- Increase the penalty for selling, delivering or otherwise transferring a pistol or revolver to a person the transformer knows or has reason to know is prohibited from owning a firearm to a Class B felony and require a three year mandatory minimum and $10,000 fine for all violations
- Increase the penalty for knowingly making a false statement or providing false information regarding a pistol or revolver application to a Class C felony and require a minimum fine of $3,000 for any violation
- Increase the penalty for altering a firearm identification mark, number or name to a Class C felony and require a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 for any violation
- Increase the penalty for failure to surrender a permit or eligibility certificate to a Class C misdemeanor and establish a Class D felony for an individual to attempt to purchase a firearm with a pistol permit or eligibility certificate that has he knows or should have known has been revoked.
- Increase the penalty for the criminal possession of a firearm or electronic defense weapon to a Class C felony and require a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000.
- Increase the penalty for criminal possession of a pistol or revolver to a Class C felony and require a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000.
- Increase the penalty for purchasing a firearm with the intent to transfer it to someone who the transferor knows or has reason to believe is prohibited from possessing it to a Class C felony and require a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000
- Increase the penalty for the solicitation, employment or assistance in the purchase of a firearm by a person ineligible to purchase or possess a firearm to a Class D felony, and to a Class C felony with a $5,000 mandatory minimum fine if the firearm is actually transferred, and to a Class B felony if the person in violation has been convicted of a felony within the prior five years.
It should also be noted that CT is one of four states that already has an assault weapon ban. That along with these new laws closes some of the loopholes and provides teeth to our gun laws.
With regard to mental health services, I support:
Mental Health First Aid: Promote training for teachers, school nurses, school counselors and other community members to help them identify mental illness and respond to psychiatric emergencies.
Mental Health Task Force: Create a task force to conduct a comprehensive study of Connecticut’s mental health system and make recommendations for enhancements to the mental health system for 16-25 year olds. Topics for the task force to pursue may include:
- Improving early intervention and treatment,
- Closing gaps in private insurance coverage,
- Improving case management and follow up,
- Addressing the shortage of psychiatric professionals and specialized services,
- Alternate service delivery and payment models,
- Looking at models of mental health delivery for young adults,
- Creation of a centralized resource center that would serve as an information clearinghouse for individuals and families regarding mental health issues.
Case Coordination Initiatives in Probate Courts: Promote programs that provide case coordination/management for individuals with mental illness, including programs that provide liaisons between the mentally ill and courts, providers, community agencies and family members. For example, Melissa’s Project, ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) Teams, and Peer Bridger Programs.
American Academy of Pediatrics Collaboration Model: Implement a program similar to the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) to train pediatricians to intervene with children who have mental health conditions and prescribe and manage medication when appropriate.
With regard to school safety, I support:
Require school districts applying for grants for new construction and renovation to meet a standard for security infrastructure in the schools.
Allocate additional funding, and reauthorize current funding for school districts to apply for grants to improve the security infrastructure in schools (i.e., reestablish the School Security Competitive Grant program first launched in 2007).
School Construction grants should be expanded to allow for additional items to be eligible costs; including but not limited to:
- Reinforced entryway with ballistic glass
- Double door access, penetration resistant vestibule with CCTV monitoring and computer controlled electronic locks
- Remote locks on all entrances and exits and a buzzer system
- Classroom doors with computer controlled electronic locks
o All around the school
o At entrances and exits
- Mobile emergency response buttons for designated school personnel
- Solid core (internal and external) doors with ballistic glass, excluding classroom windows
- And other security infrastructure improvements and devices as they become industry accepted standards deemed appropriate and approved by relevant construction officials at the Department of Construction Services and DESPP
PERSONNEL: SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
Provide intensive, individualized interventions for the most high risk students who are already exhibiting violent tendencies and further require remediation plans and follow-ups with individuals in question.
Require the State Department of Education to provide technical assistance to school districts on the issue of increasing behavioral intervention specialists in the schools, not limited to public schools; but including private schools, parochial schools, and public and private pre-school programs.
Clarify existing statutes to ensure development of model district and school security and safety plans, in conjunction with local law enforcement, or use a model plan created by or from the state, with basic minimum requirements.
- Require districts to submit the plan to the Department of Emergency Security and Public Protection (DESPP)
- Plans need involvement from local responders, implementation of a command center, and addressing all four phases of crisis management with police departments “scoring” the drills and reporting on difficulties experienced and improvements that can be made
- Require districts to report on the three crisis drills they are required to do on the same form that they use for the fire drills and have it attested to by the local fire or police department.
- All-hazard’s approach
- Require a Security and Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) for every school every 2 years
As part of district security and safety plans, districts shall establish School Safety and Security Committees/Threat Assessment Teams which shall include a member of local law enforcement.
State Department of Education (SDE) reviews district anti-bullying programs and reports back to the General Assembly. Provide links to model “Safe School Climate Plans” currently available.
Implementing a crisis management plan and violence prevention training for school employees, including, but not limited to, professional development and teacher and administrator certificate programs.
Establishing minimum qualifications to ensure that school security consultants are properly trained and have school security expertise – include limited liability for use of security consultants in plans or school security construction reviews.
Rep. Hovey represents the 112th District covering Monroe and part of Newtown.