The California state Senate sees their share of interesting and controversial legislation proposals. One of the most recent bills, Assembly Bill No. 1014, is one which, if passed, would permit the secret seizure of a California state resident’s guns, after just one complaint that they pose a risk of committing an act of violence.
California Assembly members Das Williams, a Democrat from Carpinteria, and Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley, first introduced the legislation last year. Favor of the bill increased after the Isla Vista shooting rampage on May 23, when the shooter’s mother claimed she had raised concerns about her son’s mental state, but no action had been taken.
Even if no crime had been committed, the bill states that it would permit a court to issue an “ex parte gun violence restraining order,” along with a firearm seizure warrant based solely on the “reckless use, display, or brandishing” of firearms, or on the “recent acquisition of firearms or other deadly weapons.“
According to the bill, the petition for a restraining order on ownership of firearms can be filed by “An immediate family member, licensed therapist, or licensed health care provider,” and any individual who knowingly files a false petition “with the intent to harass” will be guilty of a misdemeanor.
“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get back their guns or prevent them from buying more,” argued Skinner. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”
The President of the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, Brandon Coombs, wrote a letter in opposition of the bill, stating, “Good intentions do not make a law constitutional and this bill is plainly unconstitutional.”
Coombs took issue with the fact that the bill would allow individuals to be stripped of their firearms, without notice, based only on the allegations of another individual. “People cannot be denied their constitutional right to acquire and possess firearms based on secret proceedings,” wrote Coombs.
The Berkeley City Council also wrote a letter, however, it was in favor of the bill. They compared it to existing laws in Connecticut, Indiana, and Texas that allow “for the removal of firearms from individuals who are at risk for committing acts of violence,” and argued that it would give “families and law enforcement with new legal tools for temporarily restricting the ability of individuals who pose a significant risk of personal injury to themselves or others to possess firearms.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was among the organizations opposing the bill. Charles H. Cunningham, the Director of State and Local Affairs for the NRA, wrote a letter on behalf of the association. He called the bill, “one of the most egregious violations of civil liberties ever introduced in the California legislature.”
One of Cunningham’s major issues with the bill was with the fact that anyone would have the right to file for a restraining order and to obtain a restraining order against someone they “think” shouldn’t own a firearm.
Cunningham pointed out that, “a disgruntled neighbor, a former employee, an ex-girlfriend or any other scorned or vindictive individual,” would be given the right to “the deprivation of a law-abiding citizen’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, as well as his or her Fourth Amendment right to be free from improper searches and seizures.”
Another part of the bill Cunningham disagreed with was the fact that it “affords lawful gun owners no opportunity to be heard before their firearms are confiscated.”
“The idea that police officers will be legally obligated to treat citizens who, in many cases, aren’t even accused of a crime as dangerous, armed individuals is a new and disturbing innovation in the law,” wrote Cunningham.
Rachel Blevins is a student in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. She aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning authority as she establishes her journalism career.