Ambiguous wording? What else would you expect from an anti Second Amendment piece of legislation spawned by gun control enthusiasts and backed by billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg and more recently Bill Gates and his Microsoft executives. Washington’s controversial I-594 was one of the few gun rights losses of late and recently went into effect. Gun owners are worried and for good reason.
I-594 passed by an 18-point margin. Had gun rights voices been louder and the truth known, the numbers might have reversed. The new law expands background checks in Washington to include all gun sales whether made in private, online or at gun shows. Opinions within the pro 2A community unfortunately vary on this point.
However, the biggest danger is not in the debate of private sales, but the ambiguous language defining what constitutes a transfer. The new law does not stipulate that such actions as handing someone else your gun to shoot at the range or for a day is not legal. Yet many critics say that the law only loosely defines what constitutes a transfer, and some gun owners worry that something as simple as handing someone else a gun at the range or while hunting could be illegal. As ridiculous as it sounds… sure, you would win in court, but after having to spend how many thousands of dollars to prove your innocence?
To test the theory, gun rights advocates are planning a rally later in December in front of the state Capitol in which they will be “exchanging guns.” There are no plans to arrest anyone exchanging firearms at the rally, says a Washington State Patrol spokesperson. However, the spokesperson did not go so far as to clarify law enforcement’s position on the matter overall.
“We don’t think that we could prove that that’s a transfer,” Bob Calkins, spokesperson for the patrol, told The Seattle Times. “These are law-abiding folks, they have a political statement. We don’t expect a huge problem.”
This leads to the question of whether the law will have any positive effects as intended. According to law enforcement, it is very unlikely, which is why the gun control crowd may well have duped the voters. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action cites 22 of the state’s 39 sheriffs as critics of the law. The prevailing belief among the sheriffs is that the new tighter gun restrictions will strain police resources and possibly be unenforceable. This leaves less time to enforce other laws and prevent crimes.
Critics of the law also worry that I-594 will expand the state’s gun registry and make it illegal to loan firearms to friends or family members. That sounds like an overstatement to many, but Sheriff Ben Keller of Garfield County.
“This initiative is a violation of the Second Amendment,” said Keller. “I come from a gun owning family and it would be a crime every time someone wanted to use my trap gun at a trap shoot. Being in law enforcement for 24 years, this initiative is not going to keep guns off the street. What keeps guns off the street is keeping the felons that are using the guns illegally in jail.”
Much to the dismay of its residents, California is the testing grounds for much of the anti gunners agenda. Assembly Bill 1014 is no exception. Signed on September 2014, the new law subjects legal gun owners the seizure of their Second Amendment rights without representation or due process.
Assembly Bill 1014 allows any police officer or immediate family member to petition a court for a gun violence restraining order. The subject of the order does not have to be present, is not consulted or given the opportunity to mount any defense. So basically, a disgruntled spouse, parent, child—or many others because ‘immediate family member’ is loosely defined—can feed the court any story, fail to offer any proof and your right to posses and bear arms are immediately stripped via an emergency restraining order. The order would prohibit you from possessing firearms or ammunition for 21 days. Can you say “instant victim?”
During these 21 days, the subject of the restraining order is notified and must get rid of his or her guns and then given an opportunity to mount a defense. Failure to convince the judge that you are not a danger to yourself or others results in the order going into effect for a year.
Can you imagine the nightmare this would be for anyone, not to mention a collector with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars wrapped up in a collection? Moreover, all without proof, just someone’s contention at a hearing? If the alleged mentally disturbed person were not on the edge before the initial hearing, what would a 21-day notice of a loss of Constitutional rights do?
As would be expected, Assembly Bill 1014 is yet another knee-jerk reaction by opportunists to capitalize on a tragedy. The democratically controlled legislature quickly pushed Assembly Bill 1014 through in wake of a tragedy perpetuated by a mentally ill student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In that incident, the attacker first stabbed three men to death in his apartment. He then used legally acquired pistols and legal magazines that held 10 or fewer rounds—both subject to ineffective laws to reduce gun crime—to kill three more people. This happened while killing and injuring more with his car.
All of this carnage, yet the only weapon the legislature was concerned with was the firearm. No legislation resulted to deal with the underlying issue of mental illness. There was nothing to keep mentally ill individuals from accessing cars or knives.
How dangerous and general is Assembly Bill 1014? Well, to begin the law defines “immediate family member” as “any spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, any other second-degree relation, or anyone who has regularly resided with the individual in the past six months.” I suppose anyone could say they were a house guest. What about a college roommate? How is “immediate family member” defined in a dorm style situation or military barracks?
Doctors of Psychology with years of academic training and field experience cannot accurately predict which patient will become violent and which ones will not. How does anyone expect law enforcement and “family members” to figure it out?
In the case of the UCSB student, law enforcement had been in contact with the subject only weeks before his spree. They did not determine him a threat then, so why would this law have changed anything? What about the Constitution? The Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, the Fourth Amendment against illegal search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment against due process. The AB 1014 order can be issued without so much as a mental health evaluation. The defendant is judged without representation and their property seized before adjudication.
The fight is far from over. The Second Amendment defenders have made great strides of late, but let’s not overlook the dangers of the recent defeats and the potential implications if they go nationwide.
Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!