One reason constitutional rights are made inviolate is because judges have been known to violate them. If passed, a California law will be invalidated due to this principle.
Cali is considering giving judges to power to take away a person’s guns based on something less than evidence. Known as AB1014 and the Ex Parte Gun Violence Restraining Order bill, the law would empower a judge to revoke the Second Amendment if a person is claimed to be a danger to himself or others. This is one of several knee-jerking reactions to the recent Santa Barbara slashing/shooting/driving homicides homicides. The idea is that is a friend, family member, neighbor or perfect stranger claims you are armed and nuts, the government can take away your firearms.
Lack of real evidence is the issue.
The law as currently written requires a judge to consider squishy evidence such as written or oral statements by “any witness the petitioner may produce.” The judge doesn’t have to demand testimony however – just the petition to have guns removed is enough. If your estranged husband wants to break into your house and beat you to death, all he has to do is petition the judge and claim you have been making, or have a history of psychotic or violent behavior. Disarmed, he then has his way with you.
Some forms of squishy evidence allowed by this inept legislation includes:
- “A recent threat of violence or act of violence by the subject of the petition directed toward another.” I once got a restraining order on my ex-wife for tossing a cup of coffee on me (just the java, not the cup). That was an act of violence, but one so minor it was barely enough to get an emergency restraining order.
- “A recent threat of violence or act of violence by the subject of the petition directed toward himself or herself.” Have you ever heard of an overwrought mother worried her temporarily depressed kid might do themselves harm? Happens daily, and now would be grounds for eliminating the kids preferred mode of self-defense.
- “A violation of an unexpired emergency protective order.” See above. If my wife had tossed another cup of Joe at me, that would have been grounds for disarmament.
- “The reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm by the subject of the petition.” Oddly, reckless is not defined. Had my ex swung a hammer at my head instead, and I pulled a gun, would I have been reckless? A biased judge might think so.
- “Any prior arrest of the subject of the petition for a felony offense.” Does a felony check kitting charge count? Why did they omit “violent felony”?
- “Evidence of recent or ongoing abuse of controlled substances or alcohol.” Again, this could be the evidence of unprovable testimony (“I saw the preacher popping heroin your Honor!”)
There is more … oh so much more. The bottom line is that this bill doesn’t address the problem (dangerous kooks who may want to kill people) in a way that assures it doesn’t abridge a right, or is abused by people with grudges, or that it won’t force them to find other ways (like the knives and automobiles used in Santa Barbara).
The good news is that even the anti-gun crowd is looking seriously at mental health as the key issue. Now they just need to get mentally healthy enough to write a good law.