David French penned an article over at National Review advocating for what is known as gun-violence restraining orders. The name sounds good and the piece is getting a lot of positive reviews from some Second Amendment and limited government supporters. Predictably, large swaths of the left and gun-control advocates are cheerleading for the legislation nationwide. For many of them though, this kind of legislation represents merely a starting point for much more regulation.
Gun-violence restraining orders essentially give individuals (family, friends, co-workers) connected to a gun-owner the ability to have firearms seized by law enforcement. Temporarily, at least. The thinking is that for a number of reasons that person may pose a clear and present danger to themselves or the public. The gun owner or the accused would then receive a hearing before a judge, ideally in ten days to a few weeks to show that they are fit for ownership and not a public threat.
To his credit at least, French argues for a more narrow and defined bill than what a few states currently have. Washington state is one example of a wider interpretation of the law that lends itself to a long list of abuses. It expands the list of people who can report a firearm owner and only requires a simple preponderance of the evidence (50+1) for a judge to seize the firearms beyond the court date or hearing.
North Carolina’s Marcia Morey (D-Durham) wants to introduce a gun-violence restraining order bill in North Carolina. Her bill looks much more like the Washington state model than the model put forward by French. This from the N&O:
Under her proposal, anyone such as a teacher, co-worker or acquaintance who has first-hand knowledge of someone in possession of or with access to a firearm behaving in a threatening manner could petition a district court judge for a gun violence restraining order.
That word “acquaintance” jumps off the page and is hard to ignore. It could certainly lend itself to a lot of false reporting or even make the potential law suspectable to revenge reporting. Morey says her proposal is not about taking gun rights away, yet the same article notes her support for federal legislation to ban “all AR-15s” and “semi-automatic military guns.” Given that information, her motives are at the very least questionable. For anybody that knows anything about guns, that’s an extremely large and diverse class of firearms.
After reading French’s more reasonable piece, while well-intentioned, I still wouldn’t support this legislation. While it sounds good in theory, in the end, it lends itself to too many potential abuses and acts of tyranny. Will a former spouse report somebody because of jealousy or grievances? What is the opinion on firearms or judicial philosophy of the judge somebody might appear before? Of course, the list of “what ifs?” could go on and on. That has to be a concern for North Carolinians.
And given all the mistakes made by federal and local law enforcement in regards to the shooting in South Florida, there is not much credibility to giving even more power to government over an inherent right. The American Founders believed the right to bear arms predates government for a reason and is posited in the people first.
I do agree, however, with the premise of French’s piece, that more local vigilance and involvement is needed to protect our communities. Citizens did the right thing in Florida, the government did not. While gun violence is down overall, it’s important to remind ourselves that self-government requires responsibility and virtue and that is something many of us need to relearn if freedoms are ultimately going to survive.