In November, Washingtonians will find Ballot Initiative 1491 on their general election ballot. The purpose of the initiative is to allow temporary suspension of an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights if they are deemed a case of “extreme risk.” In other words, people who are rumored to be unstable or potentially violent can be denied purchase of firearms and have their existing pieces confiscated.
On the surface, this seems reasonable to many people, but make no mistake: I-1492 is plagued by sloppy language and a frightening lack of administrative accountability.
Here are THREE reasons I-1492 presents an “extreme risk” to our rights:
- Hearsay, not fact. Under I-1492, “family members, household members and law enforcement” can petition to have a restriction placed upon a person. The overwhelming problem is that “household members” is vaguely defined and could include anyone from an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend to a college roommate from a year ago. This naturally creates a situation in which those with perverse incentives could wield power over law-abiding gun owners using anecdotal evidence.
- Judge, Jury and Executioner. Emergency orders could be issued with no comment from the accused, and result in a de-facto permanent suspension of an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights. This is an appalling affront to our system of checks and balances, and to one of the founding principles of our justice system: We are innocent until proven guilty.
- Not-So-Temporary Orders. Even though the protection orders are intended to be “limited” in duration they can easily be renewed and extended, meaning that a temporary order could easily become a permanent one if the courts lack the staffing and willpower to examine all available evidence at the designated review times. We should take to heart one of the lessons we have learned over the years: Government is always more eager to ban something than to unban it.
Existing law already allows detention of people who are considered truly dangerous based on objective evidence from credible intelligence agencies and law enforcement. Additionally, individuals can still police their own neighborhoods and tip police to potential threats.
The truth can’t be denied: This law does nothing to actually address issues like high crime, poverty and mental illness that are the precursors to our problems. It is simply a gun-grabbing initiative disguised as a social justice project.
The problem is not a gun issue; it is a responsibility issue. Government cannot and should not seek to eliminate every potential hazard. Rather, we should work to create a society where individuals care for their neighbors and family members, are aware of potential threats and are equipped to deal with them.
For the full text of I-1491, click here.