Washington State readers, if you take your constitutional rights seriously; if you believe that no one should be deprived of their rights without due process; if you consider yourself to be an advocate for civil liberties, please vote NO on Initiative 1491.
Under I-1491, a judge can, at the request of “family and household members” (ironically, household members need not actually live with you…more about this later), issue an order depriving you of your constitutional right to bear arms. Indeed, the individual to be deprived of their right to bear arms need not even be notified in advance that any action is being taken.
Consider this from Washington Arms Collectors:
“A woman, stalked by a violent ex-husband, attends a handgun class, obtains a Concealed Pistol License, and purchases a handgun – all to defend her and their children. The stalker realizes that he is now in danger if he follows, confronts, assaults her or invades her home. He sends a petition to the court, stating that his ex-wife has threatened him, that during a recent argument she brandished a firearm, and that she owns a gun and has taken training in its use. The stalker provides proof to the court of the acquisition of a firearm. He also knows of his wife’s visits to a psychologist during their divorce proceedings and in his petition discloses the medications she is on and alleges that she is mentally unstable and a danger to her, their children and him. The allegations are serious enough that the court, without a hearing, issues an ‘ex parte* extreme risk protection order’ that orders the woman to surrender her firearms. The first time that the stalking victim knows of the process that is being used to disarm her is when is when the local police show up at her door to deliver notice, search her home and seize her firearms.
With the help of the courts, this victim has been made helpless.”
Forget due process. Forget your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Forget any quaint notions you may have about being innocent until proven guilty. Forget the old saying about having nothing to fear from the courts if you’ve done nothing wrong.
The progressive group, Alliance for Gun Responsibility is, predictably, supporting this initiative by distributing questionable “facts” and statistics. For example, they cite a study by the equally progressive Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, that claims dozens of lives have been saved by “similar” legislation in Connecticut. That’s super, but unless you live in a Minority Report world, where it can be known in advance that a particular act is certain to happen (and we know how that turned out in the movie), any claims of lives saved has to be pure speculation.
Furthermore, while some may say that the Connecticut legislation is similar to I-1491, it differs in at least one significant way. The Connecticut law requires an independent investigation on the part of local law enforcement before a person can be stripped of their 2nd Amendment rights; I-1491 requires only the say-so of the aforementioned family or household member.
Just exactly who are these family and household members? Aside from the people you would normally expect, I-1491 also includes a “person who resides or has resided with the respondent within the past year.”
Say, for example, you need a roommate, so a friend of a friend moves into your spare room. Your new roommate quickly falls behind on his share of the rent and utilities and, eventually, you ask him to move out. Several months later, the deadbeat roommate still owes you money. Angry over your efforts to collect, the ex-roommate files a petition with the court for an extreme risk protection order, stating that you own at least two handguns, drink heavily on the weekends, that you’ve been harassing him over a bogus claim for money and recently threatened him. The judge agrees that you’re a threat and issues an ex parte order to deprive your of your firearms. And just like the helpless woman in the hypothetical situation above, you’re none the wiser until the police show up to confiscate your firearms.
When this legislation was introduced to the State Legislature in 2015, it never passed out of committee. Why, you ask? Because even the liberal gun grabbers in Olympia could see that it was deeply flawed. First, as already mentioned (yes, I’m beating a drum, here), an extreme risk protection order can be issued before the respondent is even aware that any complaint has been filed.
Second, there is very little downside for a person who maliciously files a petition. There’s no filing fee and the penalty clause is weak; in the event of a malicious petition, the respondent bears the cost and burden of seeking redress.
Next, the legislation requires only a preponderance of evidence in order for an ERPA to be issued, meaning that the judge need be only 51% sure that the facts alleged in the petition true. This is a laughably low standard to use in order to strip a person of his constitutional rights.
To be clear, I can understand the motivation behind this piece of legislation. Take the story about the woman above, and turn it around to have her seeking protection from her violent, gun toting ex-husband. It seems like the legislation proposed in I-1491 would be tailor made to protect her. Not so, according to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
If a person is truly dangerous, existing law already provides a variety of mechanisms to deal with the individual, all of which can lead to firearm prohibitions in appropriate cases. Depending on the circumstances, these can include arrest, followed by pretrial detention or release on bond with conditions and monitoring; restraining or no-contact orders; or emergency mental health evaluations and commitments.
The issuance of an ERPO does not do anything to deal with the underlying cause of dangerousness, nor does it subject the person to any actual physical restraint, ongoing reporting or monitoring requirements, or treatment for any underlying mental health condition. Initiative 1491 will be ineffective as it targets the tools but not the problem.
If a dangerous person is committed, he gets treatment. If he is arrested, he might be detained pretrial or at least monitored and subject to reporting requirements while on pretrial release. Nothing happens, however, to a person with an ERPO except the seizure of the person’s firearms (if he is known to have any) and listing in a prohibited person database. Under I-1491, the person is left free to carry out any harmful designs by any means at his or her disposal, including the illegal acquisition of additional firearms.
I have not provided an exhaustive list of reasons here why I-1491 deserves to be voted down in November. I strongly encourage you to read both linked articles and ask yourself why progressives are pushing such a deeply flawed and anti-civil rights piece of legislation. While I’m sure they do want to save lives, it seems ironic that many of the same people who support this shameful assault on the 2nd and 5th Amendments also support abortion on demand and assisted suicide. This leaves me to draw the conclusion that they may be just as interested in depriving as many citizens as possible of their firearms as they are in improving gun safety.
As a side note, what is it with liberals anyway? They accuse conservatives of waging a war on women; they mock us by saying we want women to be barefoot and pregnant, but the truth is that liberals want women to be helpless and they want that helplessness codified into law.
*An ex parte judicial proceedings are conducted for the benefit of only one party; the other party is specifically excluded from the proceedings.