Starting January 1, California will roll out one of the most controversial gun laws in the country. Signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year, the law will give unprecedented powers of confiscation to California police officers. The law will give family members the power to acquire a “gun violence restraining order” against a loved one, allowing police to go in and confiscate that individual’s weapons at a judge’s discretion.
The legislation came on the heels of a 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista – Elliott Rodger became the latest misanthrope to garner national headlines by slaying six innocent people before turning the gun on himself. Families of the victims were frustrated upon learning that Rodger’s parents had voiced concerns about their son to police before the massacre. But because Rodger was not deemed a criminal threat, authorities did not have the probable cause necessary to search his apartment and uncover his significant cache of weapons and ammunition.
“Family members are often the first to spot the warning signs when someone is in crisis,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assembly member Nancy Skinner. “AB 1014 provides an effective tool to get guns out of the hands of loved ones to avoid these tragedies.”
Indeed. But simply confiscating everyone’s guns would have the same effect, would it not? The only problem with that is a little thing called the Second Amendment. In this case, one might also question how the 4th Amendment is to survive in such a heavy-handed police state.
“Without a doubt, AB 1014 is one of the most egregious violations of civil liberties ever introduced in the California legislature,” said the NRA’s Charles Cunningham.
One of the most disturbing things about this law is that it does not even allow the accused to speak out in their own defense until three weeks after the confiscation. At that time, the accused must convince a judge to give him his guns back. The judge can do so, or he can choose to keep the individual’s guns for up to a year – all without a single charge being brought against the defendant.
Among the things a judge can consider when determining his ruling: Whether he has made any threats, whether or not he has ever been arrested for a felony, whether he has been abusing alcohol, and even whether or not he has recently purchased a gun or ammunition. A judge will have wide latitude when determining whether or not to give the defendant back their weapons, using factors that are not historically linked to a person’s right to bear arms.
With this law, California Democrats have decided that freedom comes second to safety, moving us a little further along the path to a “thought-crime” state, where police have the authority to lock our guns – and, perhaps ultimately, us – away on nothing more substantial than accusations and gut feelings. Even if this law would have prevented the Santa Barbara shootings, it would not give it any firmer grounding in the Constitution.