by Rick Ector
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Michigan State House Representative Robert Wittenberg (D – Oak Park) has been making a few waves in the local Detroit area media lately about a bill he originally submitted for consideration over a year ago.
His proposed legislation (HB 4706), known as the “Extreme Risk Protection Order Act,” languished in Lansing until it apparently caught the attention of Detroit Fox 2 after the most recent mass shooting incident at the Marjory Stoneman Douglass Parkland High School in Parkland, Florida.
Accordingly, Fox 2 wanted to do a story on Wittenberg's bill and asked me for an official comment. Initially, I had some concerns about the legislation which seemingly sounded like a sincere attempt to address mass shootings. I had not yet read the bill and I had some concerns about the bill having negative consequences for a person being falsely accused of being a threat.
Now that I have read the entire bill, I believe that this legislation is nothing more than an all-out assault on the Second Amendment via the elimination of due process.
In a news report that aired locally on Fox 2 on the date of Feb. 20th 2018, Wittenberg made his proposed legislation sound reasonable. In the segment's voiceover, Fox 2 Reporter Randy Wimbley says the following about Extreme Risk Personal Protection Orders:
“It would allow family members or police to lobby a judge to temporarily seize guns from someone who poses a threat to themselves or the public. It would also keep them from buying guns.”
Then Rep. Wittenberg is shown on camera to make the following supporting quote, “They get due process. It goes through a judge who has to deem that there is evidence – you have to present evidence – that this person is a threat to himself or some other person.”
Immediately after Whitenberg finished his taped interview at the news station, I walked over and introduced myself. I had a very simple question for him.
I asked if there were any negative consequences for a person who knowingly gave false and damning testimony about a person being a threat. He looked me in the eye and said that his bill did address that concern and that the likelihood of false testimony should not be a problem with this process.
When I later read Wittenberg's bill for myself online, I discovered that he indeed give me an accurate answer. However, he failed to tell me that the consequences for submitting blatantly false information on an Extreme Risk Personal Protection Order was trivial.
The bill states the following: “A plaintiff who knowingly and intentionally makes a false statement to the court in the complaint or in support of the complaint is subject to the contempt powers of the court.”
So, what exactly does that mean? It means that if you make a material false statement to the court in an application for an Extreme Risk Personal Protection Order that you “may” be punished with a Contempt of Court sanction or you may not be. To help me better understand this phrase I contacted several criminal defense lawyers that I know. In essence, a person making false statements may not even be punished. Further, if the issue ever comes up he or she “might” get a tongue lashing from a judge.
Once you fully understand the draconian measures that can be taken against a person subject to an Extreme Risk Personal Protection Order, a much harsher punishment is certainly warranted for a person making false statements to the court.
In contrast, making a false statement on a Concealed Pistol License application is punishable by a $2,500 fine and four years in prison. Nothing less than a mandatory year in prison for a fraudulent Extreme Risk Personal about Protection Order is certainly warranted.
In addition, Rep. Wittenberg failed to mention during the aforementioned TV interview or on his appearance on the Fox 2 news show “Let It Rip” – a couple of days later – that due process can be ignored for the person who is the focus of an Extreme Risk Personal Protection Order. There is a provision in the bill that allows the evidence to be submitted and heard by a judge without the defendant being notified.
Law enforcement can literally show up at a person's home and seize all of his firearms without a hearing and with the court's approval. There is no provision to transfer the firearms to a family member or a friend for safekeeping.
Moreover, the laundry list of people who can apply for an Extreme Risk Personal Protection against another person is vast: parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, grand-father, grand-mother, uncle, aunt, first-cousin, spouse, former spouse, a person with a child in common, dating partner, former dating partner, someone in the same house-hold, room-mate, close relationship, police officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, state police, or federal law enforcement officer. The sheer volume of people who can bring action against a person via an Extreme Rise Personal Protection Order is outrageous.
Finally, the biggest point to be made about an Extreme Risk Personal Protection Order is that it will not keep you safe from someone who genuinely wants to seriously hurt or kill you. A piece of paper will not save you. If your life is in danger, you should go somewhere safe, get a restraining order already available under the current law, get an Emergency CPL, and borrow or buy a firearm.
Current law allows for due process. The accused can get his day in court and can contest the proposed order. For example, it is standard operating procedure for a divorce lawyer to have his client seek an order of protection against the man in a relationship solely for the purpose of getting him out of the marital home.
In summary, an Extreme Risk Personal Protection Order would offer very little actual protection for people who would genuinely seek them that is currently available under “standard” orders of protection. Advertising that taking a truely sick or deranged person's guns will make an alleged victim of abuse safe is simply not true.
Bad people always find a way. A person truly in danger needs to take action rather than relying solely on the alleged powers of the law. This bill would not be worth the paper it could be printed upon, which is not surprising. The writer of this bill is the founder of a local gun control group.
This bill would allow people with an axe to grind to punish another by having his guns seized and making it difficult to get them back. If the author was really concerned about bad people with guns, this bill would have some provision in it for the treatment of people with mental disorders that make them dangerous to loved ones.
Rep. Wittenberg is a shameless gun grabber.