Remember when the famous actor and guest speaker at the 2000 National Rifle Association (NRA) conference, Charlton Heston, uttered those now famous words, “From my cold dead hands,” when he challenged all those including, then Vice President, Al Gore to try and violate his Second Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution without a fight?
If Heston were alive today and living in California, he would have to eat those words.
No prying would be necessary to strip him of his gun rights. In fact, all it would take is for a family member to seek a restraining order against him.
Governor Jerry Brown has essentially gone around the Second Amendment rights of California’s citizens with one stroke of the pen.
FILE - In this May 28, 2014, file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown poses in his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif. Incumbent Brown faces Republican Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official who has never held elective office, in the November election. Brown, 76, is on the verge of doing what no one else has ever done in California: get elected to a fourth term as governor. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Brown signed the Democrat led AB1014 bill into law late last month.
The bill came in response to the May 2014 incident, in which Elliot Rodger was accused of going on a rampage near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus.
Rodger was known to have a mental health issue, according to his parents, who had contacted his therapist weeks before the rampage and asked the therapist to contact Santa Barbara County mental health officials.
Although sheriff’s deputies made contact with Rodger prior to the incident, they never entered his apartment to check on reports of a ‘disturbing’ video that Rodger had made.
After determining that he was not a threat, the police took no action.
Subsequently, Rodger allegedly stabbed his three roommates and shot three other people. Thirteen others were also wounded.
The new law, which focuses on seizing guns only, would allow a law enforcement officer or family member to ask a court for a restraining order against a person who is believed to be a threat to self or others. The person would then be barred from possessing a firearm for at least 21 days.
A hearing would then be required to be held within 14 days to give the gun owner an opportunity to argue there is no threat.
A family member caught lying about their belief that the person is a threat could face misdemeanor charges.
The gun owner, essentially, would have the burden of proving something that does not exist; no threat to self or others. It is a well-known fact that it is extremely difficult to prove something that does not exist.
The family member will only have to show that they believe the gun owner is a threat. What constitutes a sufficient belief is another question that will have to be adjudicated by a court when a restraining order is requested.
At the very least, this is a gray area which affords the courts great latitude in erring on the side of caution by continuing to enforce the restraining order over the objection of the gun owner.
Also, this new law is redundant as there is already a law that protects the public from those who pose a threat.
California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 5150, provides authority for law enforcement to take a person he or she believes is a danger to self or others into custody and have them assessed by a professional (licensed mental health professional).
After taking the person into custody for an evaluation, the police would also have the implied authority to remove guns, knives, or other potential weapons from the person’s possession.
The police officers in the Rodger case, either failed to make the correct determination or Rodger was not a threat at the time they spoke with him. However, this doesn’t make the law a bad law.
The new legislation will now hold the court responsible for deciding if the gun owner should lose his guns temporarily.
The court, without speaking to the gun owner and by relying on family member’s statements can remove the person’s guns.
Additionally, the new law does not require the opinion of law enforcement or the mental health assessment of a trained mental health professional.
Any private citizen can now step into the shoes of law enforcement and a mental health professional to conclude that a person is a threat.
What definition a court will use to decide who is considered family will also be at issue.
Will the courts use the traditional definition of a family or expand it to include those merely residing in the same house with the gun owner?
The California nanny state will most likely find ways to broaden its reach under the new law. This will certainly lead to further erosion of Second Amendment rights.
When there are laws already on the books that adequately protect the citizens of its state, new laws with unconstitutional overreaching should be scrutinized and ultimately challenged in court.
While the Constitution allows for restrictions to any right that it guarantees, there must be a showing that the burden is outweighed by the benefit to the State.
Progressives will argue that removing the guns of those that are believed to be a threat is for the benefit of the public’s safety and welfare with minimal inconvenience to the gun owner. This argument is used each time the progressive left acts to further its own agenda.
This law is not about safety. Its focus is solely on guns. Had it been about safety it would have included knives or other weapons.
Whether the NRA or someone else will take up the Constitutional challenge in court or continue to allow the tenets of the Second Amendment to be stripped “From the hands” of those in California, is yet to be seen.
But before you breathe a collective sigh of relief because the law was enacted in California, just remember that what starts in California often trends nationwide.
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