In an ideal world, legislators at all levels of government would be forced to walk the careful line between people’s rights and the public’s demand for laws that ensure public safety. They’d carefully balance each to craft laws that try their best to do both. They wouldn’t always succeed because, well, they’re human, but they’d try.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in this one.
These are companion bills that would change state law so law enforcement could confiscate firearms if they only have probable cause to believe domestic abuse has happened. In other words, on just the suspicion of something bad having happened, they can violate the civil liberties of the accused.
In fairness, there’s a bit more to it than that. Police can only take guns they happen to see outright or find should the person consent to a search. This, in theory, covers any Fourth Amendment concerns.
The problem is…well, there are a lot of problems.
First, let’s understand that guns in plain view could also include any kept in a glass-front gun cabinet like many have. While those aren’t ideal for keeping them safe from burglars, they do well to keep kids from messing with them and also allow people to show off their collection a little bit. We had one when I was growing up and a lot of people still do.
Guess what? Under this bill, those could be seized by police because they just think you hit your wife/girlfriend/partner.
Then there’s the matter of the search. The text of HB 499 reads that the gun can be taken if “[t]he firearm is in plain view or is discovered during a consensual or other lawful search.”
Keep in mind that it’s not up to the gun owner to consent to the search in the first place.
Here’s a potential scenario for you. A woman calls the police claiming her husband punched her in the stomach. This is domestic violence and the police aren’t likely to take it lightly. When they roll up, the man isn’t there. “He went to the store,” she says. The officers believe her story because she’s acting like her stomach hurts. They ask to search the home and she consents.
Once inside the home, they find a number of firearms and take them in accordance with this law.
At this point, there’s been no due process. There’s been no finding as to whether the woman’s story is true. The police haven’t had to even speak to the man, but even if they did, so what? What man actually admits to hitting his wife?
Oh, they might opt to listen when he explains that she’s had a stomach ache all day and he went to get her some Pepto Bismal, then produces a bottle of the stuff. Then again, maybe they won’t.
Honestly, it puts law enforcement in a spot I’m not sure most of them want to be in.
Then, as Miguel notes over at Gun Free Zone:
The geniuses thinking they are doing a grand job protecting women from abuse, they manage to leave them in the house unarmed, subject to future attacks.
He’s right, after all. Guns don’t just serve one master. They can be useful for those same women to protect themselves from violent men. After all, the average man is stronger than the average woman. He could probably kill her with his bare hands. She would probably be powerless to stop it without a gun.
You know, like the one the police took.
Honestly, at every level, this is a bad idea. My hope is that Florida has the good sense to kill it.