Attorneys say most weapons are returned to their owners at some point.
'Cover your tail'
Rachel Baird is a solo practitioner in Torrington, Conn., who has handled dozens of gun seizures over the past decade.
"I definitely think you're going to see more" seizure warrants filed in the wake of the Newtown shootings, she said. "I think it's clear. It's going to affect the police because they're going to make more seizures, and it's going to affect the courts because the judges are going to be more reluctant to give people their guns back. It's a cover-your-tail kind of thing."
The problem is, the constitutional rights of those who own firearms legally get trampled on in the process of seizing the weapons before warrants get signed, she said. "This is essentially carving out an exception to the Fourth Amendment."
During the year after the confiscation, the gun owner can't legally buy or own another weapon, which impact other rights. Beyond that, Baird notes, after someone has been served a risk warrant and had a gun seized, they are no longer allowed to obtain a license to carry firearms outside of the home. "So you lose your right to defend yourself" when out in public, she said.
Baird is concerned that the law, as it exists now, is already ripe for abuse. "I have a recent case where a person said he wasn't [previously] concerned about my client's guns but he started to think about Newtown and then he called the police."
She also represents a woman, Barbara Doutel, in a federal lawsuit that claims Norwalk, Conn., police violated Doutel's constitutional rights to possess a firearm to protect her home when they seized her guns because of a complaint against her husband.
"From my perspective, if the government wants to take peoples' guns away, let's just say that's what they want to do, instead of hiding behind the seizure law," Baird said.
Other lawyers who handle gun cases are also bracing for increased use of the seizure law and other gun-related statutes. "I have noticed that firearms violations are already attracting more attention and efforts of state and federal law enforcement," said New Haven lawyer Jon Einhorn. "There's more scrutiny of anything involving guns than there was previous to Newtown."
Craig Fishbein, a Wallingford, Conn., lawyer who represents clients with gun-related matters in civil and criminal court, said he doesn't think the gun seizure law could have been used to prevent the Newtown shootings. "We're talking about stolen implements in this case," he said. "You could be the most sane person in the world and someone steals your gun and uses it. How do you prevent that?"