By Jeff Knox : Opinion
Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- You've seen it on bumper stickers: “Don't Californicate (insert state name here).”
The problem of “Californication” has been a serious concern for people in several states, but it's not just about kooky Californians moving in with their flaky social and political ideas. While migrants from California have made significant impacts on neighboring states over the past decade, the greater negative impact comes from the importation of California ideas. Sure, that can be assisted by the throngs of California expatriates, but these wrong-headed notions can take root in the mushy brains of local politicians without any input at all from California migrants.
Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada have been hard-hit by the Californication phenomenon, and one of the areas where it's most evident is gun control laws.
Oregon recently followed Washington's lead, and has embraced a new law that proponents call an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or ERPO.
An ERPO is like a Restraining Order or Order of Protection, but rather than ordering a potentially dangerous person to stay away from a named potential victim, an ERPO is supposed to remove the means for violence from the potentially dangerous person. While specifics vary from state to state, in general an ERPO allows a housemate, family member, intimate, physician, co-worker, or police officer to petition a judge to order “temporary confiscation” of a person's firearms and other weapons. The idea is to disarm a person who is exhibiting mental instability that suggests that they might be a danger to themselves or others.
Of course, like most prior-restraint laws, it all sounds reasonable on the surface. But as usual, the devil's in the details.
Typically ERPOs are issued by a judge, based solely on the testimony of one or more of the above-mentioned persons. There is no formal hearing, no opportunity for the subject of the ERPO to hear the accusations, face his accusers, or argue against the action until after police have barged into his home and seized his firearms. They could also seize other things that they consider potentially dangerous weapons, like knives, razor blades, medications, etc.
This begs the question as to how far police can and might go in their efforts to “suicide-proof” a person's home? Will they take, ropes, belts, shoelaces, and car keys? Can they compel the person to stay away from tall buildings, railroad tracks, busy roads and bathtubs?
We at The Firearms Coalition have long held that any person who cannot be trusted to possess a firearm, should not be free to circulate with the general public without direct supervision. In other words, whether we're talking about convicted felons or people with mental issues, if they are too dangerous to themselves or others to have access to firearms, they are too dangerous to be outside of an institution. That might sound harsh at first blush, but it's actually much more moderate than the current standard. The current rule assumes that anyone who has ever been convicted of a serious crime – even tax evasion or writing bad checks – and anyone who has ever been forced to undergo psychiatric treatment, can be released into society, but without their full constitutional rights. This sort of blanket policy means that people who are too dangerous to be roaming free are living among us, and people who are no danger at all are second-class citizens. Like school policies which dictate that anyone involved in a fight, whether attacker or victim, receives the same automatic punishment, policies that allow dangerous people to roam freely, and which punish people who are not dangerous, are unfair to individuals, and harmful to society.
To my knowledge, every state has laws allowing a person to be involuntarily committed for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation. These laws generally require no more justification than is required for an ERPO: testimony from a family member or close associate. Those laws are problematic too, but they currently exist, and they make the concept of an ERPO redundant, and comparatively anemic. If your family really believes you are a danger to yourself or others, why would they not petition to have you held in a safe place where you cannot hurt yourself or anyone else, and where you can receive treatment for your condition?
These ERPO laws are not about saving lives or preventing tragedies. They are about demonizing guns and gun owners, and feeding the anti-gun paranoia machine.
Someone bent on suicide is unlikely to be deterred by a meddling relative having armed police come and take their guns. As a matter of fact, such an event could easily precipitate a tragedy that would not have happened otherwise. A person struggling with Hamlet's daunting question, might find that it's easier to simply point a gun at arriving officers than to pull the trigger on themselves [suicide by cop]. Worse, if they are really determined, they could take an officer or two with them. Or the person could simply seek one of the hundreds of alternative methods that are readily available beneath the kitchen sink, in the medicine chest, or on the highway.
If it's others that the person wants to harm, again, throwing police into the middle of that situation could precipitate the tragedy, and not having firearms readily available isn't likely to make them see the folly of their plan. Firearms are a favorite weapon of murderers, but they are not nearly the only means of accomplishing the deed. In almost half of all murders, firearms aren't involved.
ERPO's are probably occasionally helpful, occasionally harmful, and occasionally abused, but the vast majority of the time, they serve only as a way for people to feel like they're helping, when they're really not. They are a panacea for people unwilling to do the difficult work of loving someone through a crisis. Of course this is just the sort of nanny-state scheme that makes Mike Bloomberg's leg tingle, so it's being pushed and well-funded by Bloomberg's gun control conglomerate in states around the country.
The Constitution guarantees the right to arms, and it also guarantees “due process” before property can be seized, but Bloomberg and his Californicators seem to think the Constitution only applies to other people's ideas, never theirs.
Besides, if it saves just one life, what does it matter how many rights are trampled and lives are destroyed in the process? Right?
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.