Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for a federal law Sunday allowing law-enforcement officials to take away people’s guns if a judge rules they are a threat to themselves or others.
Connecticut passed such a law in 1999 following a shooting at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. in which a gunman killed four people.
The proposal from Mr. Blumenthal, a regulatory affairs, comes after a 19-year-old gunman allegedly shot and killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 following numerous interactions with law-enforcement, social services and school officials. The gunman charged in the case was able to legally purchase and possess the AR-15 rifle he allegedly used in the attack despite warnings to authorities that he could be a school shooter in the making.
Under the law, about 20 gun removals a year were carried out in Connecticut from 1999 to 2006, according to a Duke University School of Law study. After a shooting in 2007 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, that number increased to about 100 cases a year and reached a cumulative total of 762 by the end of June 2013, the study found.
Connecticut allows law-enforcement officials to obtain a court warrant to remove guns from people found to pose an imminent risk of harming themselves or others. The judge must take into account recent threats or acts of violence and recent acts of cruelty to animals. Indiana, California, Oregon and Washington have similar laws.
“There is no conclusive way to say that this measure or any other would surely have prevented this mass shooting in Parkland,” Mr. Blumenthal said in an interview. “But there were very serious alerts and facts that could have been brought to the attention of a judge to take away this shooter’s firearms and perhaps persuade him to seek psychiatric help.”
The National Rifle Association, which has opposed such laws at the state level, didn’t respond to a request for comment. When Oregon passed its law in August, the NRA said in a news release that the protection orders “strips the accused of their Second Amendment rights” and will only be “based on the brief statement of the petitioner.”
Mr. Blumenthal said he expects to introduce the federal legislation in the coming weeks and is seeking support for the bill among Democrats and Republicans.
Connecticut’s “public safety and mental health law provides a model that I am going to seek to make bipartisan and that hopefully we can come together to support,” Mr. Blumenthal said.
The Connecticut law passed before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, when a gunman killed 26 people in Newtown. In that attack, a troubled 20-year-old man used an AR-15 rifle owned by his mother. The Connecticut law couldn’t have addressed the shooting because the gunman wasn’t the gun’s registered owner.