Washington: VOTE NO on Ballot Initiative 1491 to Selectively Target Gun Owners

Sponsored by NRA-ILA

On the 2016 General Election ballot, Washingtonians will find Ballot Initiative 1491, an initiative purported to prevent violent acts by creating so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (ERPO).  This legislation was introduced in the Washington Legislature during the 2015 Legislative Session as House Bill 1857.  HB 1857 died in committee without ever seeing a floor vote.  Your NRA-ILA has seen similar legislation pop up in multiple states in recent years and the proponents are always the same, anti-gun legislators and gun control groups who are intent on targeting gun owners instead of preventing crime.

I-1491 allows persons who have no specific expertise, and who may be mistaken, to seek an ERPO.  Under the initiative language, “family and household members” are considered valid petitioners for an ERPO.  “Household member” is vaguely defined as to even allow roommates from a year ago to petition to remove your Second Amendment rights when they don’t even live with you anymore.  Emergency ex parte orders can be issued with no input from the respondent whatsoever.  In that context, a person’s rights disappear merely on the say-so of someone else.

Even the standards for the “permanent” orders issued after hearing tend to stack the deck in favor of the petitioner.  I-1491 would require the surrender of concealed pistol licenses as well as the seizure of all firearms by law enforcement.  The evidentiary standards are insufficient for the abridgement of a fundamental right, the findings the court is required to make are vague and subjective, and the basis on which findings can be made often include lawful behavior (e.g., consuming alcohol, buying guns, etc.), hearsay, or prior incidents in which the state did not sustain its own  burden of proof (e.g., prior arrests not leading to prosecution or conviction, prior allegations of violence not leading to arrest or official action, etc.).

This law would be ripe for abuse by individuals that disagree with the Second Amendment, and the mere insinuation that gun ownership makes you a danger to yourself or others is offensive and insulting.

In the 2016 General Election, vote “NO” on I-1491

If a person is truly dangerous, existing law already provides a variety of mechanisms to deal with the individual, all of which can lead to firearm prohibitions in appropriate cases.  Depending on the circumstances, these can include arrest, followed by pretrial detention or release on bond with conditions and monitoring; restraining or no-contact orders; or emergency mental health evaluations and commitments.

The issuance of an ERPO does not do anything to deal with the underlying cause of dangerousness, nor does it subject the person to any actual physical restraint, ongoing reporting or monitoring requirements, or treatment for any underlying mental health condition.  Initiative 1491 will be ineffective as it targets the tools but not the problem.

If a dangerous person is committed, he gets treatment. If he is arrested, he might be detained pretrial or at least monitored and subject to reporting requirements while on pretrial release. Nothing happens, however, to a person with an ERPO except the seizure of the person’s firearms (if he is known to have any) and listing in a prohibited person database.  Under I-1491, the person is left free to carry out any harmful designs by any means at his or her disposal, including the illegal acquisition of additional firearms.

An Extreme Risk Protection Order can always be renewed or extended, so even if it is “limited” in duration, an ERPO can turn into an indefinite prohibition.  To the degree the laws require guns to be returned to the respondent when the order expires, the provisions are largely illusory. The storage fees charged by law enforcement agencies or FFLs could easily exceed the value of the guns in most cases.

During this General Election, be sure to vote “NO” on Ballot Initiative 1491.  Urge your family, friends and fellow gun owners to do the same.

Sponsored by NRA-ILA