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SWAT team (Image: Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr)
Oregon Governor Brown signs gun confiscation bill into law
On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law a democrat-sponsored gun confiscation bill, permitting Oregon judges to order guns to be confiscated under an “Extreme Risk Protection Order”, based on hearsay evidence, and before the gun owner is permitted a hearing to challenge the order.
The law is based on Oregon Senate Bill 719 and was passed by Oregon democrats despite widespread condemnation by constitutional scholars and gun rights groups. All but 4 democratic senators voted in favor of the bill, while every republican senator but one voted against the bill.
The sole “token” republican voting for the bill, Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas, Oregon), claimed the law would “reduce veteran suicides”, and it was under that noble-sounding purpose that Democrat legislators steamrolled the bill through the legislative process.
Paul Phillips, President of Oregon Gun Owners, noted the hypocrisy and the 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.”
Confiscation hearings will be held without notifying the gun owner of the hearing
Under the law, 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 then be held within one day of the petition being filed, WITHOUT notifying the party whose guns will be seized about the hearing.
Gun owners will be only be allowed to challenge the seizure order AFTER their guns have been taken
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 in recovering their guns before they have been destroyed.
Order can be issued based on hearsay evidence alone
Under this law, Oregon judges will be permitted to issue a “extreme risk protection order” based on any number of unrelated events or even hearsay allegations, such as a drunk driving arrest, the beginning of a divorce, allegations of drug use, or even engaging in a constitutionally-protected activity such as recently purchasing a gun or receiving firearm instruction.
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’s mental state.
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.
Law’s ambiguous language allows for widespread abuse and gun confiscation
The lack of specificity within the law regarding evidentiary requirements, and the range of potential petitioners possible under the law (including state officials), opens the door for widespread abuse and gun confiscation, which many claim is the actual intent of the law.
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.
Essentially, if a petitioner has a sufficiently convincing ‘story’, or the court is already sympathetic to anti-gun rhetoric, the court is now permitted to issue an order to legally seize someone’s guns.
Oregon police officers can also petition to have someone’s guns seized
Under this law, an Oregon police officer is now permitted to petition for an order against anyone they deem to be a danger to themselves or others, for almost any reason.
A driver pulled over for a traffic infraction, for example, may later find themselves the subject of an “extreme risk protection order”, simply because they angered the officer by challenging the ticket in court. Under the law, all the officer must do is claim the person was “acting strangely” and they can petition the court to seize the person’s guns.
In other words, for the first time in Oregon history, a state agency has been granted explicit authority to remove a citizen’s property based on hearsay evidence, without permitting that citizen advance notification of the hearing, and without an opportunity to challenge the petition before the property is taken.
The law also grants police officers the power to enter the subject’s property and search for, and then seize, any additional guns not specifically identified within the protection order.
No small feat to recover the guns once they have been seized
Once a subject’s guns have been confiscated, they must convince the court to return them. Given the fact that the court was willing to seize the guns based on someone else’s unsubstantiated allegation, recovering one’s guns after they have been seized will be no small feat. Essentially, the gun owner must prove to the court that the court made a mistake; that the gun owner does not pose a risk to themselves or others.
Compounding this near impossibility, Oregon has some of the most rabidly anti-gun jurists in the nation, many of whom believe the mere ownership of a gun is evidence of mental instability and danger. Oregon Judge Kenneth Walker, for example, famously said in court last year that, if it were up to him, “No one would have guns. Not police. Not security. We should eliminate all of them.” Thanks to Governor Brown and Oregon Democrat lawmakers, now it is up to him.
Law violates the 14th Amendment’s “Due Process” clause
Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, before the state may deprive someone of their property, they must provide the person with “due process”, which the courts have interpreted to mean, they must provide the person with notice of its intention, provide them with an opportunity to challenge the action at a hearing, and have the matter adjudicated by a neutral party.
Under this law, however, no opportunity is provided to the gun owner to challenge the confiscation BEFORE before their property has been seized. Only AFTER their guns have been seized is the gun owner provided with a hearing to challenge the action.
As such, this law appears to be a violation of the 14th Amendment’s “due process” clause.
The National Rifle Association has soundly condemned the law over its due process violations, “By allowing a law enforcement officer, family member, or household member to seek the ERPO, SB 719A would allow people who are not mental health professionals, who may be mistaken, and who may only have minimal contact with the respondent to file a petition with the court and testify on the respondent’s state of mind.”
Governor Brown signed the law into effect on Wednesday.
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Keywords: anti-gun, Governor Kate Brown, gun confiscation, Oregon, SB-719.