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    Thursday, August 18, 2022

    Blumenthal, city leaders talk guns, abortion in New London

    New London — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal came to the city Wednesday afternoon to show support for domestic violence victims and for abortion rights.

    At New London-based domestic violence agency Safe Futures’ office on Jay Street, the Democrat stood with organization director Katherine Verano, along with state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence CEO Megan Scanlon, city Mayor Michael Passero and Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule, as well as about 30 other people in attendance.

    Blumenthal spoke of bipartisan gun legislation that Congress passed last week, a bill on which he and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., helped lead negotiations. President Joe Biden signed the Safer Communities Act, which implements several gun control measures along with funding for mental health and school security, on Saturday.

    According to Verano, the new law contains “critical safety provisions for victims of domestic violence.” In particular, she cited the red flag provisions and the shrinking of the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows men who are convicted of assault against their girlfriend to continue to buy weapons. Spouses are no longer allowed to buy weapons in similar cases.

    While Connecticut has closed the "boyfriend loophole" in recent years, Blumenthal said the new law "drastically shrunk" the loophole on the federal level, which advocates argue is noteworthy progress.

    “The things that we don't necessarily love that we want to continue to work on are, if you have a protective order in place at the national level, you can still possess firearms,” Scanlon said. “In Connecticut, it’s mandatory that your firearms get taken away. That’s not the case federally."

    "Another thing we generally are not going to support, but we get it’s a compromise, is that individuals who are first-time offenders, if they do not have another conviction for the next five years, have the ability to get their guns back,” Scanlon said.

    Verano shared a statement a victim gave to Safe Futures’ court advocate Tuesday. Verano said the advocate has been working with the victim for a few months, “and when she heard that this act passed, she got so excited.” The victim moved to Connecticut several months ago.

    “My boyfriend of two years physically assaulted me and threatened to kill me when I tried to break up with him,” Verano read from the victim’s statement. “When it went to court they issued a protective order, I told them I was in fear for my life because he has weapons in his home. They said I did not qualify to have the weapons taken away. I was mortified and fearful for my life.

    "A short time later I came to the state of Connecticut for safety reasons. He stalked me, contacted me through his friends, and they sent the message that he said he was going to kill me. I called the police with help from advocates. The police came, took a statement, did an investigation. They found him, arrested him for violating the protective order, threatening me, and took his guns away. I felt safe for the first time in two years.”

    Blumenthal said the law includes federal funding to support red flag laws, which are meant to keep weapons away from people who have been determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.

    “It will bring millions of dollars to Connecticut for implementation,” he said. “This (is) $750 million, real resources to implement the statutes across the country ... it’s a breakthrough. After 30 years of Congress doing nothing, hundreds of thousands of deaths, dozens of failed pieces of legislation, we’ve made progress.”

    Connecticut is expected to receive about $18 million for its crisis intervention services, such as Safe Futures, and its law enforcement and court infrastructure.

    Nolan said he hopes the law will lead to further action on gun control in the future, such as raising the required age to buy a gun to 21 from 18.

    “My fear is that, though this is very great, it may not stop a lot of the shootings we want to stop, especially school shootings,” Nolan said. He added that he “wouldn’t be opposed” to Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont calling a special session to do something more about gun control before the regular session.

    Passero and Brule mentioned how closely New London and Waterford work with Safe Futures and how important this federal money could be for the communities. Brule, a Republican, said he welcomes the construction of a new Safe Futures Family Justice Center, which will provide all victims' services and resources in one location, in Waterford. 

    Abortion

    In a separate event later Wednesday afternoon, Blumenthal spoke at New London City Hall alongside health care providers about the Supreme Court's recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. While Connecticut residents currently are afforded access to abortion, and the state is set to become a “safe haven” for people seeking abortions who are from states where the procedures are illegal, Blumenthal warned that Republicans would seek a federal abortion ban if they reach a majority in the Senate.

    “It’s constitutional that federal law preempts, it overrides, state law,” Blumenthal said. “Abortion would be banned in every state including Connecticut. All of our laws would become dead letter. That is so intensely and immediately frightening, and Mitch McConnell has said that’s where he would go if he were majority leader of the United States Senate. The Senate is currently evenly divided, 50-50, one net loss of a seat means he could take over. So, in effect it would override our laws.”

    Blumenthal praised Connecticut’s doctors, midwives and medical professionals providing reproductive health care. He said the government needs to help health care professionals in Connecticut and other states with similar protections for out-of-state people.

    “We are at a really perilous and depressing time when our entire democracy is under assault. But there is hope because of brave, expert professionals ... we are going to fight for resources that will enable you to meet the potential surge that is coming,” Blumenthal said. “Women coming from other states need resources to travel here. They need support, counseling and information. Our providers here need support to address this potential surge in cases that is forecast.”

    The legislature passed a bill, which the governor signed into law, strengthening abortion rights and access in anticipation of the overturning of Roe v. Wade this past legislative session. The legislation, a combination of two earlier proposals, protects out-of-state women from prosecution for getting an abortion in Connecticut and Connecticut medical providers from legal actions taken against them from another state.

    Certified nurse and midwife Amanda Corcoran of Comprehensive Gynecology of Connecticut also spoke in front of City Hall on Wednesday, saying that health care providers “are being forced to contradict years of training and ethical obligations by withholding evidence-based, safe health care.”

    “This decision marks the start of a frightening era for health care professionals. We must now fear criminal, professional and civil penalties for providing this evidence-based and appropriate care,” she said. “We are thankful that, as of July 1, we will be a safe haven state and we will be protected if we are providing that care to people that are coming here. But we already have a health care shortage. We have lost so many health care providers during this (COVID-19) pandemic and even more who are slated to retire.”

    s.spinella@theday.com

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