In 2021 CAGV picked up where we left off when the 2020 legislative agenda was put on hold in March, 2020 due to the pandemic: strengthening the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) and getting the state to establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Substantive progress was made on both fronts, though much remains to be done to address the public health crisis of street violence in Connecticut’s urban centers.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders
The General Assembly passed, and Gov. Lamont signed, HB-6355, An Act Concerning Risk Protection Orders. The House voted 93-55-3, with two Republicans joining all but four Democrats in voting for the bill. In the Senate, the bill passed on a straight party-line vote, 23-12-1.
ERPOs provide a means of last resort for removing firearms from individuals judged by a court to be at risk of imminent harm to themselves or others. ERPOs have been particularly successful at preventing firearm suicide and strong circumstantial evidence exists that they prevent mass shootings. The key provisions of Public Act 21-67 include:
- Requiring a court hearing to demonstrate that the risk of imminent violence no longer exists before firearms are returned.
- Prohibiting an individual at risk of imminent harm from purchasing a firearm even if the individual doesn’t currently possess a firearm.
- Allowing family, household members, intimate partners and healthcare professionals to directly petition the court for a risk protection order.
Connecticut is the first state to require a court hearing before returning firearms, continuing our legacy of leadership; we were the first in the nation to create an ERPO, more than 25 years ago.
Office of Gun Violence Prevention
CAGV and our supporters continued to push the Lamont administration and the General Assembly to establish a state-level grant-making authority (an Office of Gun Violence Prevention) tasked with funding and implementing evidence-based, community-centric prevention and intervention programs to reduce street-level gun violence. We call this the Connecticut Initiative to Prevent Community Gun Violence.
Since CAGV launched the CT Initiative in the summer of 2020, there has been substantial support for getting the state to take a more intentional effort to address community gun violence. Since its inception, 40 organizations have signed on as partners, 69 currently seated legislators pledged to support it and some 1,150 CAGV supporters like you have sent Gov. Lamont and state legislators more than 3,000 emails and postcards urging them to take action. A huge shoutout to all of you for using your voices to drive the change we need to make our urban centers safe from gun violence!
Although the goal of creating an Office of Gun Violence Prevention has not yet been realized, notable progress was made. In Senate Bill 1, which declares racism a public health crisis, the legislature created an external committee to advise it on establishing a Commission on Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention “to coordinate the funding and implementation of evidence-based, community-centric programs and strategies to reduce street-level gun violence in the state” (we were pleased to see our wording from the CT Initiative borrowed verbatim). CAGV is named to the advisory committee. SB-1 passed on a bipartisan basis, 114-33-4 in the House and 30-5-1 in the Senate.
CAGV held multiple discussions with the Lamont administration and the Office of Policy Management about meeting the goals of the CT Initiative through executive action. These discussions are ongoing.
Other Measures to Reduce Community Gun Violence
CAGV joined efforts with allies to advocate for two bills that will improve the state’s ability to prevent community gun violence. HB-5677, An Act Concerning Community Gun Violence Services Under Medicaid, makes Connecticut the first state in the nation to provide Medicaid reimbursement for Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) services. HVIP counsels gunshot injury victims during and after hospital stays to short-circuit acts of retaliatory violence, and provide victims with the after-care they need. The bill passed both the House and Senate without a single “no” vote!
HB-6034, An Act Concerning Project Longevity, also passed without a single “nay.” This bill, for which CAGV organized a strong turnout of supporters to testify at the public hearing, extends Project Longevity to Waterbury, which experienced a 6x increase in gun homicide in 2020. Project Longevity is the group-violence intervention (GVI) strategy that engages with the small number of individuals in urban communities who account for a majority of gun violence, either as perpetrators or victims. The program brings all levels of law enforcement together with social service providers and community leaders to warn that all members of the group will be held accountable for future gun violence, but also to provide the supports such as job training, employment, housing and healthcare needed to turn away from violence.
These accomplishments could not have been made without your advocacy, so please take pride in what we have accomplished together. If you’re pleased with our collective progress, please consider making a contribution to set us up for more success next year, any amount makes a difference.