HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- A unique law on the books in Connecticut for more than a decade is aimed at trying to prevent tragedies like the Colorado movie theater shooting.
Connecticut was one of the first states to ban automatic assault weapons, but it was the very first and still the only state to have a "gun seizure" statute.
Fourteen years ago, a mass workplace shooting at the Connecticut Lottery took the lives of four supervisors at the agency. A disgruntled staff member with a history of mental issues shot his four supervisors, chasing one down in the parking lot. The man then killed himself.
It was later discovered that the shooter, Matthew Beck, who had just returned from a disability leave for those mental issues, had previously attempted suicide and his house was loaded with guns.
After struggling with the constitutional issues for two years, the state legislature finally passed the nation's first gun seizure law, which allows people to report someone if they think they are capable of that kind of violent act.
Former State Rep. Mike Lawlor helped write the law and records show that it has been used to seize guns from dangerous people hundreds of times over the past 10 years.
"If you read some of these affidavits you can see there's truckloads of guns being taken out of people's homes," said Lawlor, "there's clear evidence they were about to do something and some of them may very well have been planning to do some kind of suicide type attack like we've seen so many times."
There is specific criteria for reporting someone: there must have been threats of violence made or acts of cruelty to animals, reckless display of a gun, prior confinement in some kind of psychiatric facility and illegal use of drugs and or alcohol abuse.
"Where there's clear evidence that someone has a lot of guns and there's clear evidence that somebody presents a danger either to themselves or others," Lawlor said, "if you can explain what that evidence is, even though they haven't committed a crime yet, the police should have the ability to go into their house, get the guns, bring the whole thing to court and let a judge decide; A: whether or not you're gonna get your guns back, and B: whether or not you need some mental health evaluation."
While this law has had some success, it doesn't always work and many people still don't know its on the books.
The Hartford Distributors shooting in 2010 is a perfect example: a disgruntled employee who had guns and apparently made threatening remarks about shooting people to a relative was never reported and went to work and shot and killed eight people before killing himself.
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