California showing “slippery slope” of Maine’s proposed gun confiscation law

Sacramento, CA – Less than five years after the California Legislature passed a law allowing an immediate family member or a law enforcement officer to request and initiate the confiscation of an individual’s guns in a secret, ex-parte court process, the state is considering a proposal to expand and allow many other people to file those confiscation requests against unsuspecting gun owners.

The proposal lends itself to the argument made by opponents of the proposal in the Maine Legislature to create a similar process. Opponents argue that the Maine proposal violates multiple constitutional protections, including the due process protections of the U.S. Constitution and gun rights under both the U.S. and Maine Constitution.

The California proposal would amend the state’s “red flag” flaw to include co-workers, employers, teachers and employees of a school a person has attended in addition to immediate family and law enforcement officers.

The Maine proposal, L.D. 1312, as drafted, similarly allows members of a household, law enforcement officers or law enforcement agencies to file a petition for gun confiscation.

Maine’s proposal also enables ex-spouses, in-laws and other family to file also. In any future legislature, however, additions such as California is considering could be made with a simple majority vote of the legislature and a Governor who would not veto the bill.

A public hearing on L.D. 1312 on April 22, 2019 showed strong opposition from Maine gun owners as well as law enforcement agencies who are opposed to the idea of being required to show up at a gun owners home with no prior notice or warning to execute a search warrant and confiscate guns. Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols described his objection to the law bluntly, “We do not want to get shot. We do not want to shoot someone,” Sheriff Nichols said to the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Numerous opponents of the Maine bill testified about the dangers of such confiscation methods, citing a tragic case in Maryland, where a man was shot in the early hours of a November morning when two police officers attempted to serve a “red flag” gun confiscation order. No information was provided at the time of the shooting as to who filed the protection order request for the man’s gun to be confiscated, with the court citing confidentiality of the request as the reason.

A group that advocates gun control measures, Moms Demand Action, which is part of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $50 million gun control push, came out in March in support of the Legislation. They claim that enabling the confiscation of guns through the secret process will save lives and prevent suicides. Several representatives from that group testified in Augusta in support of Maine’s current proposal.

It remains to be seen if there is enough support in the Maine Legislature to push the proposal through to the desk of Governor Janet Mills. One alternative would be if the to take the path that many opponents of the current proposal said at the public hearing should be taken, which is to fix Maine’s ‘blue paper’ laws. Those laws exist to protect individuals suffering in a mental health crisis or other acute or dangerous situations.

Mental health is the top concern generally cited as the cause of most of the worst shootings in America, so fixing those laws does seem to be appealing to most advocates on all sides of the issue.

Maine lawmakers will grapple with L.D. 1312 as the Legislature careens toward the end of the current legislative session in June. The Judiciary Committee has voted what is called a “divided report” on the Maine bill. That means some members of the committee supported it, and some opposed.

Out in California, the expanded gun confiscation law, AB-61, has been passed by the California Assembly and now awaits votes in the State Senate. It received broad support by members of California’s notoriously liberal State Assembly, passing in a roll call vote 54 to 17.

L.D. 1312, is sponsored by Senator Rebecca Millett (D – Cumberland) and has ten cosponsors:

Representative Donna Bailey (D – Saco)
Representative Barbara Cardone (D – Bangor)
Senator Everett Carson (D – Cumberland)
Speaker Sara Gideon ( D – Freeport)
Senator Geoffrey Gratwick (D – Penobscot)
Representative Thom Harnett (D – Gardiner)
Representative Patricia Hymanson (D – York)
Representative Joyce McCreight (D – Harpswell)
Senator David Miramant (D – Knox)
Representative Lois Reckitt (D – South Portland)

A previous attempt to pass similar legislation was vetoed by Governor Paul LePage after compromise language was added to win support in the Maine Legislature.

You can read the text of the proposed “Red Flag” gun confiscation bill by clicking here.

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