Last week I wrote about a bill in the Oregon legislature that would allow family members to petition a court for removal of guns in cases where a gun owner was an immediate risk to himself or someone else. The bill, known as a measure to be used only in instances of ‘extreme risk,’ would require the gun owner to surrender his firearms for up to one year, but the gun owner could also appear in court and present evidence that his access to guns no longer represented a risk to himself or anyone else.
The Oregon initiative follows the adoption of a similar law in California, which allows family members to ask for a restraining order on access to guns. But this week the virus seems to be spreading to the other coast, because a similar measure has just been introduced in the Massachusetts House, and it appears to have enough sponsors to be taken seriously when and if the Massachusetts legislature stops arguing over the annual budget.
I learned about the Massachusetts law because of an email I received from my friends at the NRA, which linked to a statement about the law by the NRA-ILA. According to America’s oldest civil rights organization, the Massachusetts law, if enacted, would “result in the immediate suspension and surrender of any license to carry firearms and firearms identification card which the respondent may hold. The respondent would also be required to surrender all firearms and ammunition.” The NRA then goes on to repeat the usual canard about how such an order would be issued based on ‘little, if any real evidence,’ but that’s simply not true.
But the best part of the NRA’s attempt to explain Constitutional law to its membership is the sentence which reads: “Constitutional rights are generally restricted only upon conviction of a felony.” Did the legal geniuses at Fairfax ever hear of something called ‘prior restraint?’ The rights enumerated in the Constitution are all subject to ‘reasonable’ restrictions imposed by governmental authority, as long as those restrictions meet basic tests regarding the intent and result of what government intends to do. Such restrictions are even explicitly stated in the landmark Heller decision, which states that “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited, and “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.”
Which is exactly what these ‘extreme risk’ laws are designed to do, namely, keep guns out of the hands of individuals who have shown a disregard for the traditional rules of behavior under which we all live. Sorry, but telling someone that you are depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide isn’t just an idle threat. Ditto stalking or threatening someone who told you to leave them alone. The Constitution doesn’t enshrine such behavior and such behavior becomes a much greater threat when it might involve a gun.
But remember who we are dealing with here, namely, an organization which increasingly promotes the idea that there should be no restrictions of any kind on the ownership or use of guns. Believe it or not, I would have no problem with the NRA or any other pro-gun advocacy group if they would just drop the nonsense about how guns aren’t really dangerous because we can use them to protect us from crime. If the NRA would admit the truth, namely, that guns are extremely lethal and that access to a gun increases risk, I would fold up this website immediately, stick my guns, my wife and my cats in the Subaru and take off to a trailer park in the Florida Keys.
The fact that something is dangerous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be owned. I know a guy who keeps rattlesnakes but treats them with extreme caution and care. Are we asking too much of my gun-owning friends to behave the same way with their guns?