How does the ACLU count to ten? One, three, four, five . . . It’s true: the national American Civil Liberties Union defends gun rights like I defended my virginity. (“The American Civil Liberties Union does not oppose gun control laws. As an organization dedicated to defending all constitutional rights, we believe the Second Amendment allows reasonable restrictions to promote public safety.”) But what’s this? The Rhode Island Chapter of the ACLU has taken a stand against . . .
Gun Violence Restraining Orders. Or, as it’s proposed for America’s smallest state (and elsewhere),” Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (because euphemism).
In the post-Parkland anti-gun hysteria, ERPO’s are sweeping the nation as “compromise” gun control legislation. Compromising constitutional rights, that is.
Under ERPO laws, family members and law enforcement officials (and romantic partners in Oregon and soon co-workers in California) can convince a judge to confiscate an American’s firearms without due process (i.e. giving the accused a chance to defend themselves before the police come to “revoke” their Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms). From guns.com:
Among the groups behind the grassroots response were national gun rights organizations as well as local movements such as the Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition and Rhode Island Self Defense Alliance. Besides Second Amendment advocates, the ACLU of Rhode Island has publicly come out against the so-called “red flag” bill, issuing a 14-page analysis slamming the proposal for being overly broad and by nature speculative, making it ripe for potential abuse.
“People who are not alleged to have committed a crime should not be subject to severe deprivations of liberty interests, and deprivations for lengthy periods of time, in the absence of a clear, compelling and immediate showing of need,” said the state ACLU chapter of the legislation.
The document linked above is well worth reading. Here’s the money shot and relevant bullet points:
While the ACLU of Rhode Island recognizes the bill’s laudable goal, we are deeply concerned about its breadth, its impact on civil liberties, and the precedent it sets for the use of coercive measures against individuals not because they are alleged to have committed any crime, but because somebody believes they might, someday, commit one.
– The court order authorized by this legislation could be issued without any indication that the person poses an imminent threat to others.
– The order could be issued without any evidence that the person ever committed, or has even threatened to commit, an act of violence with a firearm.
– The court order would require the confiscation for at least a year of any firearms lawfully owned by the person and place the burden on him or her to prove by clear and convincing evidence that they should be returned after that time. If denied, the person would have to wait another year to petition for return of his or her property.
– The person could be subjected to a coerced mental health evaluation, and the court decision on that and all these other matters would be made at a hearing where the person would not be entitled to appointed counsel.
– With the issuance of an order, police would have broad authority to search the person’s property.
– The standard for seeking and issuing an order is so broad it could routinely be used against people who engage in “overblown political rhetoric” on social media or against alleged gang members when police want to find a shortcut to seize lawfully owned weapons from them.
– Even before a court hearing was held, and a decision was made, on a petition for an ERPO, police could be required to warn potentially hundreds of people to whom the individual might pose a significant danger.
– Without the presence of counsel, individuals who have no intent to commit violent crimes could nonetheless unwittingly incriminate themselves regarding lesser offenses.
If only the national ACLU would adopt the same position. Publicly. Vociferously. Strenuously. #aintgonnahappen.
In any case, total Gun Hero of the Day-ness goes to the Ocean State ACLU, an organization that lives up to Rhode Island founder Roger Williams’ legacy of respect for civil liberties.