Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is preparing to sign a bill allowing gun confiscation based solely on someone’s hearsay complaint.
Law would allow gun confiscation without due process
Oregon Senate Bill 719 will allow legally-owned guns to be confiscated from their owners, simply by filing a hearsay complaint against the gun owner. Confiscation would occur before the gun owner is permitted a hearing on the matter, and the seized guns would only be returned if the gun owner successfully appeals the confiscation order.
Predictably, all but 4 democratic senators voted in favor of the bill, while every republican senator but one voted against the bill.
The sole republican voting for the bill, Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas, Oregon), claims the law will “reduce veteran suicides”. Despite such noble claims, Oregon judges would be permitted to issue the order based on any number of unrelated events or hearsay allegations, such as a past drunk driving arrest, unsubstantiated allegations of drug use, or even engaging in a constitutionally-protected activity such as purchasing a gun within the past 180 days. Essentially, if the petitioner has a sufficiently convincing ‘story’, or the court is already sympathetic to anti-gun rhetoric, they would be permitted to issue an order to legally seize someone’s guns.
Paul Phillips, President of Oregon Gun Owners, noted the hypocrisy and underlying purpose of the bill. The bill, he says, will do little to prevent ‘suicides’. What it will actually do, under the guise of ‘suicide prevention’, is deprive Oregon gun owners of their legal rights under the second amendment. Gun confiscations, he says, will be “based on hearsay evidence alone, and the firearm owner is not [even] privy to a fair trial.”
Under the bill, any person would be allowed to file a petition with the court for an “extreme risk protection order” against anyone else they happen to be related to, or living with. A hearing would occur within one day of the petition being filed.
In addition, an Oregon police officer would be permitted to petition for an order against anyone they deem to be a danger to themselves or others. In other words, for the first time in Oregon history, a state agency will have been granted authority from the state to remove a citizen’s property and deprive them of a constitutional right, without permitting that citizen either advance notification or due process under the law.
If the petition is granted, a confiscation order would be immediately issued and officers would be dispatched to seize the guns. The subject of the order has no right to contest the order before their guns are confiscated. Their only option will be to initiate a costly, lengthy appeal process after the order has been issued; after their guns have been confiscated, and hope they are successful before their guns have been destroyed.
Seizure may occur based on hearsay alone
If signed into law, Oregon judges would be permitted to order someone’s guns to be confiscated based solely on someone else’s hearsay complaint. No actual evidence must be presented other than the petitioner’s verbal allegation of some possible future harm or some non-substantiated fear. While filing a “false” report would be a misdemeanor, proving a false report would be next to impossible since all a petitioner needs to do is claim to be “afraid” or “worried” about the gun owner being in possession of a gun.
The petitioner does not need to provide any actual evidence, such as a mental health evaluation, to satisfy the requirements for confiscation. They need only have a convincing story and a sympathetic judge. The lack of any evidentiary requirements, and the broad non-specific description of potential petitioners, opens the door for a host of abuses and unjustified seizures, which is undoubtedly the underlying intent of the bill.
An angry roommate could enact revenge against a fellow resident, separating them from a cherished hunting rifle, simply by filing a petition alleging, “I think he is depressed and may commit suicide.” Similarly, a jilted spouse can approach a judge with a convincing story, and then watch smiling as the police confiscate her husband’s prized handgun collection before serving him with the divorce papers.
Once their guns have been confiscated, the gun owner must then convince the judge to return them. This will be no small feat considering Oregon has some of the most rabidly anti-gun jurists in the nation. Oregon Judge Kenneth Walker, for example, famously said in court last year, “No one would have guns. Not police. Not security. We should eliminate all of them.”
Law appears to violate the 14th Amendment
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights states that, when the government seeks to deprive someone of their property, the government must first provide the person with notice of its intention, provide them with an opportunity to challenge the action at a hearing, and to have the matter adjudicated by a neutral party.
Under this bill, however, no evidence must be presented, and no hearings made available to the gun owner, before their guns are seized. The guns may simply be confiscated, without notification, and without the opportunity to challenge either the petition or the seizure order. Only after their property has been seized would the gun owner be allowed to challenge the action by initiating an appeals action. As such, this law appears to be a blatant violation of the 14th amendment’s “due process” clause.
Liberal lawmakers “committee-shopped” the bill, then waited until opponents had gone home for the July 4th holiday, before passing the bill through its committee
After the bill passed the Oregon Senate, it should have been sent to the state’s House Judiciary Committee, which typically handles such legislation. However, the Oregon House Judiciary Committee is chaired by a pro–Second Amendment lawmaker, Jeff Barker, who would have certainly fought against the bill. Instead, the bill’s sponsors sent the bill to the House Rules Committee, which is comprised largely of fellow anti-gun liberal lawmakers.
The House Rules Committee’s chair refused public hearings on the bill, and then waited until the day before the July 4th holiday, until after many of the Republican committee members had gone home for the holiday, before voting to pass the bill through the committee.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
A portent of troubling times ahead
This bill creates a potentially dangerous environment in Oregon, pitting otherwise law-abiding citizens against an over-reaching government bent on depriving its citizens of a fundamental constitutional right.
Those wishing to encourage Governor Kate Brown to veto Senate Bill 719 should do so via a contact page provided through the Governor’s office at: http://www.oregon.gov/gov/Pages/share-your-opinion.aspx .