Imagine that you’re a judge, that you have the power to determine the direction of people’s lives with a tap of a gavel. At any level, a judge has a great deal of power, more power than most people can really even imagine. However, superior court judges deal with a lot of high-stakes cases and can destroy a single life pretty easily if they wanted.
Now, imagine being trusted with that kind of power, but not with the right to keep and bear arms.
Pretty crazy, right?
Well, one Washington state judge was in that very position until recently.
A Superior Court judge who is an avid outdoorsman off the bench had his gun rights restored Wednesday in a Kennewick courtroom.
The request by Yakima County’s Judge Doug Federspiel came 1 1/2 years after he was ordered to undergo involuntary inpatient treatment at a Richland counseling center.
Federspiel, 57, appeared before one of his peers in Benton-Franklin Superior Court.
“It has been over one year since those events, and I have successfully managed the stress related to the original order (under state law),” Federspiel wrote in his petition to the court.
During the two-minute hearing, Judge Sam Swanberg concluded there is no evidence at this time of Federspiel being a substantial danger or committing serious harm to either himself or others.
Swanberg noted that he had “extensively reviewed” the file and, given that a professional mental health evaluation of Federspiel had been done, it was appropriate to sign off on the order.
The order affects state law, but not necessarily federal law.
However, this raises a few questions for me.
First is how someone who can’t be trusted with firearms could be trusted with the power of a judge. For right or wrong, judges have a lot of power in their courtroom and considerable pull outside of it. Enough so that a malicious soul could ruin so many lives. It’s happened and we all know it.
Yet Federspiel remained entrusted with that power.
To be fair, I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been. He’s a judge and unless he did something to warrant removal from office, he should remain in place. Being severely depressed and thinking about taking your own life is awful, but it’s awful for him. It doesn’t warrant removing him from his job.
Yet on the same token, most people who are suicidal are only in that state for a limited period of time anyway. Removing their gun rights potentially forever doesn’t encourage people to get help, it scares them from talking to anyone about what they’re planning. Why else do you think suicides went up in states with red flag orders? It’s because folks are afraid to talk because they don’t want to lose their guns, but then end up losing their fight.
It’s a short-term issue, though, and neither Judge Federspiel nor anyone else should lose their Second Amendment rights over a short-term issue.
Of course, I also wonder how many other people have lost their rights for the same thing and haven’t been able to get them back because they lack Federspiel’s understanding of the legal system, to say nothing of any connections he might have that helped grease the skids a bit.