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This piece is co-authored by Kit Lange and R. Clayton Strang
We have been so honored to be a part of the liberty movement here in Washington State. We’ve been able to come together to defeat some truly terrible legislation. We’ve killed Rep. Mike Hope’s (R, 44th LD) “universal background checks for all firearm transfers” bill (HB 1588) which was really nothing more than a prelude to universal registration. We’ve put an end to Gov. Inslee’s so-called “Reproductive Parity” bill that would have required all employer provided insurance plans covering maternity care also provide coverage for the legalized child murder that is commonly referred to as “abortion.” Activists have even put enough pressure on the legislators to defeat an assault weapons ban. In fact, we’ve even been led to believe that all of the anti-2nd Amendment legislation coming out of Olympia was dead. We’ve been repeatedly told that by the news media that this is the truth, but we’ve been lied to.
House Bill 1840 slipped right by us. This bill passed through the House of Representatives and is currently in the Washington State Senate. In fact, it has already passed its first hurdle, the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Not all of the Senators gave it a “do pass” recommendation. One Senator, Sen. Pam Roach (R, 31st LD) voted that it be “referred without recommendation” which is a nice way of trying to cover herself. She didn’t give it a positive recommendation, but she didn’t stand against it either.
So let’s talk about HB 1840 for a minute. What does it do and why is it so dangerous?
The stated purpose is that it “addresses the possession of firearms with regard to persons subject to no-contact orders, protection orders, and restraining orders.” In short, they want anyone who gets a restraining or protection order, or who is already subject to one, to surrender all firearms or have them confiscated. That sounds reasonable, right? The idea conjures up an image of the quintessential domestic violence situation, where a defenseless abused wife is at the mercy of her gun-owning abuser. Ostensibly, bill supporters would claim that this will cut down on violence against women and children. There’s only one problem: All of that is a smokescreen, and will result in innocent people having their guns taken away (which is what the government wants anyway). But in order to understand how this will work, we must first understand how protection orders are obtained now, as opposed to when they were first created.
In 2001, the group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, or SAVE, released a special report on the use and abuse of protection orders. While they declared that the idea was initially sound, the report cites large amounts of system abuse and incompetence in how orders are granted. “The judge issues the order without the respondent having legal representation, being allowed to present opposing evidence, or even being aware of the allegation,” it states. This means that if someone requests a restraining or protection order against you, you will not be granted an opportunity to defend yourself, present evidence that the order is unfounded, or even know that the order is being granted against you. In Washington State, it’s even worse. “The burden of proof rests not on the complainant, but on the respondent to prove that the order should not be extended for a full year.” In addition, the report states that the broad definition of what constitutes grounds for a restraining order makes getting them incredibly simple and easy. This means that anyone can ask for a restraining order against you, have it granted if they feel somehow harassed or unsafe—regardless of whether you have actually done anything to them physically, emotionally or sexually—and then it’s YOUR responsibility to prove that the order should not be extended to a full year. That’s not counting the effects of this order on your current employment, your ability to gain future employment, any security clearances, or even ability to pass a basic background check—and yet you’ve never been convicted or even charged with a crime.
Restraining orders are used as tools in divorces. An article in the Illinois Law Journal called them “part of the gamesmanship of divorce.” In Missouri, protection orders are called a “litigation strategy.” In California, they are “almost routinely issued by the court in family law proceedings even when there is relatively meager evidence and usually without notice to the restrained person.” In short, the national attitude of protection and restraining orders makes them easy to get, put an undue burden on the restrained person, and are notoriously difficult to have vacated. In many cases, they are difficult to get expunged from your record, even if they were frivolously obtained.
Now let’s talk about what this bill does. If you have a restraining order against you, for whatever reason, from anyone, you will have to surrender your firearms or face forcible confiscation. Now the average person may say, “Well of course we don’t want abusive husbands to have access to firearms.” But is that what is really going on? When you look at the ease with which someone can get a restraining order—one woman was granted an order against talk show host David Letterman for supposedly sending her coded messages through her TV—is it not obvious that this system would be abused as prolifically as any other? Certainly no one wants a violent, abusive party to be able to hunt down and kill his victim. However, he (or she, since 15% of restraining orders are filed against women) can do it without a gun, and a restraining order never stopped a truly violent person anyway, much like gun control laws don’t stop gun violence. This bill is simply a way to whittle away at the number of citizens who own firearms, and claim the interest of public safety.
Most people know at least one person who has been through a divorce, and has had a frivolously obtained protection order against them. As we’ve already seen, it’s part of the gamesmanship. That’s not even counting the non-domestic orders granted for things like perceived harassment or stalking—and according to the law, it doesn’t matter if you actually stalked them or harassed them, only that they feel harassed. If you are unfortunate enough to run afoul of a nasty neighbor, you may have your record forever paint you as violent. This bill would ensure that you also lose your ability to defend your home and family as well—and the fringe benefit to the government is, you’re no longer in a position to defend againt tyranny, either.
As bad as this bill is, there is a glimmer of not-quite-so-bad. Rep. Matt Shea (R, 4th LD) had introduced an amendment to this bill that would, with the changing of one word, drastically alter this bill. This amendment would have simply changed the word “or” to “and,” making the once offensive portion of this bill not quite so offensive. Of course, this amendment was defeated in the House, but it has been promised to be introduced again in the Senate. The real effect of this amendment is that the burden to prove a “credible threat” is great enough to prevent most abuses that may arise from this poorly thought out bill. The preference of the authors of this piece is that this bill not be passed at all, but if it must or will pass, this amendment is vital to have passed, as well.
We have to keep in mind whose name appears right at the top of this bill. It’s our good friend, Rep. Mike Hope. You may remember him from such bills as the afore mentioned universal background check bill (HB 1588) and the bill that strips parental rights away and give those rights to the State (HB 1934). He’s at it again, and he almost got away with this one, too. This bill is just one of many reasons why citizens in his district are seeking support for a recall petition. Now we want to be clear for the record here. It’s not simply Rep. Hope. He is not the only offender here. We simply pay him a bit of special attention because he’s a Republican, and Republicans are supposed to defend liberty, not actively seek to destroy it. It is the greatest betrayal to be elected on a platform of liberty, only to align with the gun-grabbing Left once in office.
If this bill is going to be defeated, it must be now! We have to understand exactly what this bill does, and what the potential for abuse is. This is one of those “slippery slope” bills that can and will be used to abuse law abiding owners of firearms. This bill only has to get through the Senate Rules Committee and then it can be brought to a vote on the Senate floor. We have very little time to defeat this. Read the bill. Really understand it, and then get on the phone to your Senator. If this bill goes through, it may be YOUR firearms they come for.
This piece has been published on RedState with the express permission of both authors