Family members of Lori Jackson Gellatly, the 32-year-old mother from Oxford who was shot to death last month in what police say was a case of domestic violence, said Monday that a loophole in state and federal law may have contributed to her death.
State and federal law bar the subjects of permanent restraining orders from purchasing or possessing a firearm. But Scott Gellatly, the victim’s estranged husband and accused killer, had been under only a temporary restraining order at the time of her death, meaning he was not subject to the same restrictions.
Police say he shot his wife on May 7 using a handgun he legally purchased out-of-state.
“If we could prevent one family from going through [what we went through], we would be happy,” said Linda Jackson, Lori’s sister-in-law.
The Jackson family spoke at the State Capitol in favor of proposed federal legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., that would extend the gun restrictions for those under a permanent restraining order to people under a temporary order.
If passed, Blumenthal said that the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would support victims of domestic violence at their “point of greatest danger” — the moment he or she files for a restraining order against an abuser.
“If a violent individual has access to a firearm, this increases the chance of lethality by 5 times,” said Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “[This bill] can save lives.”
Since Gellatly’s death, Connecticut has seen two other domestic violence deaths, both of which took place in Bristol. Since January, the state has documented eight deaths by domestic violence after nine in all of 2013.
Between 2000 and 2011, there were 175 homicides linked to domestic violence in Connecticut, and 153 involved female victims.
Seventeen states have policies similar to Blumenthal’s proposed legislation. However, Blumenthal sees these laws as “ineffective without a federal law,” because guns often travel easily across state borders.
“The law needs to be federal because [the gun Gellatly used] was from out of state,” said Merry Jackson, mother of Lori.
Connecticut requires those under a permanent restraining order to voluntarily turn over their firearms to the police, but the senator said the weapons are not always confiscated if the owner fails to surrender them.
“The enforcement method is not perfect,” Blumenthal said.
In 2012, Connecticut received 8,937 applications for a temporary restraining that judges can grant without a contested hearing when they believe there is immediate danger of abuse. About 60 percent of those requests were approved.
Merry Jackson, who also was wounded in the attack, had applied for a restraining order against Scott Gellatly along with her daughter, but she said her request was denied.
“I am hoping there will be bipartisan support,” said Blumenthal. “There is no question that guns make domestic violence all the more threatening and lethal.”
Lori Gellatly was killed the day before a judge was scheduled to hold a hearing to determine if a permanent restraining order should be issue. Jackson said that the proposed legislation, if it had been in place, “may have saved her.”