Gun-Violence Restraining Order

by Scott Morales

restraining_orderI just read this piece by David French at NRO. At first read, I was, and am still, skeptical and a little suspicious. But he makes some good arguments and does address the due process problem found in the other list approaches where the list restricts someones access to firearms without recourse and thus obliterating someone’s constitutional rights.  And the Gun-Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) places the responsibility to act and seek a GVRO on the person(s) who are closest to the potential threat (a sibling, spouse, parent or roommate), not the bungling Bureau or other federal authorities that have the track record of doing nothing with information they received to stop the carnage.  Charleston, Pulse nightclub, Sutherland Springs, and now Parkland school, that’s four since 2015. I think anyone objective would see this record and come to the conclusion that the federal authorities really are not capable of stopping these types of things. At least not yet.

But a GVRO, just might be.

What if, however, there was an evidence-based process for temporarily denying a troubled person access to guns? What if this process empowered family members and others close to a potential shooter, allowing them to “do something” after they “see something” and “say something”? I’ve written that the best line of defense against mass shootings is an empowered, vigilant citizenry. There is a method that has the potential to empower citizens even more, when it’s carefully and properly implemented.

It’s called a gun-violence restraining order, or GVRO.

While there are various versions of these laws working their way through the states (California passed a GVRO statute in 2014, and it went into effect in 2016), broadly speaking they permit a spouse, parent, sibling, or person living with a troubled individual to petition a court for an order enabling law enforcement to temporarily take that individual’s guns right away. A well-crafted GVRO should contain the following elements (“petitioners” are those who seek the order, “the respondent” is its subject):

  1. It should limit those who have standing to seek the order to a narrowly defined class of people (close relatives, those living with the respondent);

  2. It should require petitioners to come forward with clear, convincing, admissible evidence that the respondent is a significant danger to himself or others;

  3. It should grant the respondent an opportunity to contest the claims against him;

  4. In the event of an emergency, ex parte order (an order granted before the respondent can contest the claims), a full hearing should be scheduled quickly — preferably within 72 hours; and

  5. The order should lapse after a defined period of time unless petitioners can come forward with clear and convincing evidence that it should remain in place.

I’m not entirely sold on this, but I am thinking it over.

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