RI ACLU (courtesy riaclu.org)
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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.

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  1. “Ocean State ACLU, an organization that lives up to Rhode Island founder Roger Williams’ legacy of respect for civil liberties.”

    Yeah, no. The lady doth protest too much.

  2. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    Doesn’t really excuse the rest of the day when it’s a piece o’ junk, but still…

  3. Stunning…now if they’d only recognize the RIGHT to BEAR arms we’d really be getting somewhere.

  4. Robert, we both know Steve Brown, not sure if he’s still running the Rhode Island ACLU but I always thought he was a good guy and not a radical Marxist like the folks at the Texas ACLU.

  5. Amazing! And frightening 😱 that soon millions of Americans…Possibly vocal political pundits will be soon Declared Enemy’s of the State! Making them Political dissidence like the Chinese citizens who protested at Tiananmen Square! How can this be America!? Hopefully the rest of our fellow citizens wake up to help fight the future! What about TTAG commenters? Will we be declared Enemy’s of the State?!

  6. Wow, color me shocked. It’s a good start, just only wish the rest would jump on board and push for guns like they do for the rest of the amendments.

  7. Steve Brown is still running the RI ACLU and has been in charge for many many years. He is not a bad guy.
    My friends and I waited for one hour to get screened into the RI State House on Tuesday night to hear many gun bills in the House and Senate. The line was that long. I have never seen anything like it because I go every year. We Second Amendment advocates were overwhelming. There were very few Russian red t-shirts worn by mums demand action. I hope that we made a statement. Standing in line, I met a fellow high school graduate that I haven’t see in 25 years. We think alike. Steve Brown was also there.

    • Well done to you and all those who took their time to be seen, and in alot of cases, testify. Resulted in all proposals tabled for further study…not necessarily out of the woods but as good as one could hope for given the dangerous momentum some of these illogical bills had.

  8. I don’t see how GVRO’s could possibly survive. They’re so incredibly easy to troll into oblivion. Anonymously report your local cops, your legislators, mouthy anti’s, teachers, local businessmen, anyone and everyone really.

    If they want to dump due process embrace it. Report everyone as a threat and keep reporting. Clog the system with their own witch hunt. If everyones a witch there won’t be anyone left to light the stake.

    • If they are implemented in Texas, I’ll troll them myself if it doesn’t start getting abused within hours of passage.
      But the article mentions that a number of states already have these… do we have any data on the frequency of abuse of these orders in those states?

    • All of the laws as currently written or adopted require that the reporter be a close family member (statutorily designed to exclude former lovers and spouses) and police officers so as to preclude such abuses. There is really no reason to include police officers. All the cops will do is take you into custody as being a “threat to oneself or others” and dump you at the nearest psych ward. In fact, the first law to pass (in California of course) came after a young man went on a killing spree, first stabbing his roommate and two other men to death in his apartment, then shooting at people as he drove around Santa Barbara in his BMW, running over a few on bicycles as well. I don’t remember now how many he killed before he killed himself.
      His parents had been trying for years to get him the mental treatment he needed. But, and as particularly relevant to the fact that politicians will use any tragedy to pass their anti-gun legislation, his parents were oblivious to the fact that this young man had purchased two 9 mm handguns. So they could not have used a GVRO if the law had been in effect. Further, the police had been sent to his apartment on two or three occasions (again by the parents) but were convinced by this young man that he was of sound mind, and they had therefore declined to detain him on a “5150.”
      Any way, there have been very few cases brought under any of these statutes as far as I have heard. Further, to get the temporary order, an applicant must usually show by “clear and convincing evidence” by testimony under oath that the object is a danger to himself or others whose guns must be seized. Finally, the laws also provide a formal hearing with notice and an opportunity to appear personally or through counsel, before the one year order may be issued, an order on which the applicant, not the defendant, has the burden of proof, again by clear and convincing evidence.
      The real danger of these laws, as pointed out by the ACLU and a bill being considered in California, is the expansion of the persons who may seek such orders. the California bill would allow co-workers or employers to seek orders, other bills would allow school personnel to do so. We are not there yet, but it is a slippery slope.

      • That particular killer stabbed three people to death and shot three people to death, as well as injuring others with his car. The “solution” passed in response, the GVRO, would have confiscated his guns, but not his knives or his car. He would have remained free. So, he could still have stabbed his roommates to death, still have struck the same bicyclists with his car, but then would have to use some other weapon to carry out the rest of his killing. Maybe a machete, maybe the car itself. Just pick a nice full sidewalk and get some speed up.

        • Or, maybe a gun he bought from “a friend” he met on the street.
          California is not bereft of such “friends.”

    • I never saw in the second amendment a mention of reasonable infringement. Maybe I missed that.

  9. If someone out of spite or angered by being dumped files for an ERPO against a person who proves themselves innocent, the filing party should be held responsible for legal fees, lost wages and compensated for emotional stress. This would prevent this CRAPPY law from being abused. The court shall return confiscated firearms immediately, no waiting period at all. This sounds like and smells like a complete shit storm on the the horizon.

  10. Abused all the time in Australia especially in divorce and custody battles.

    One of my friends had girlfriend (35 year old left wing teacher) hit him and she applied for an order against him. She even said she hit him in the application. Cost him about $1200 in lawyers fees and that was cheap. To top it off she called him a month later wanting to get back together. He said NO.

  11. Here in Florida angry, soon to be divorced, wives always make allegations of domestic violence and child as a pressure tactic in divorce negotiations
    There are no consequences at all to making knowingly false accusations
    Once the divorce decree is signed, these accusations disappear with no further action by the State
    These gun violence restraining orders will be the exact same thing
    Do not forget that the filing fee in Florida is $400 to enter any motion before the court
    So you can expect to pay $400 every time your wife or child gets angry enough with you for something

  12. Nope, no credit, not even partial credit.

    They’re only even nominally against this because these orders could be wielded against interests that they actually do care about. If the bill could be modified so that it only targeted gunowers, guaranteed, then they would be f401K

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