As the situation exists today, there is very little a parent can do when they see their gun-owning adult child’s mental health deteriorating. I would like the courts to create a system for reviewing such cases. In a process which would be similar to a wife asking for an order of protection, a concerned family member would be able to demonstrate to a judge the need for a “firearms restraint order.” Issuing such an order would allow law enforcement to immediately search and remove any weapons from the (for sake of a more technical term, let’s refer to the family member as PS for Potential Shooter) PS’ sphere of existence. I’d like to extend the number of people able to ask for a “firearms restraint order” to employers, police, teachers, hospital staff, anyone regularly in the PS’ world. Obviously, not everyone could complain about everyone else, or we’d have 20 million people asking that soon-to-be former Congressman Allen West be separated from his arsenal post-haste. But anyone who has more than casual contact with a PS would be able to go to court, bringing other witnesses and affidavits to show intervention was warranted.
The biggest problem I see with this portion of the plan is the Constitution guarantees a citizen the right to face his accuser, and the identity of the person who requests a “firearms restraint order” for safety sake needs to be confidential. Maybe there is some wiggle room in that this is not a criminal procedure.
When a judge issues a “firearms restraint order” the PS’ name would be added to the “no buy” list. It would also authorize police to immediately seize all of PS’ guns. (Perhaps with a time limit of a year on how long they could be held?) It would be important to do this search at the same time the PS is notified of the complaint against him, so he doesn’t have time to hide any unlicensed weapons police would not know to search for. In order to have his guns returned before the year is up, the PS would have to go before the judge and demonstrate he was not a danger, which would include presenting the results of a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. This could be set up so that the Court had their own dedicated shrinks, or a PS could seek private counseling, which would be fully covered under Obamacare. If the PS’ does nothing, the complainant would be able to ask for a renewal of the “gun restraint order” before the guns are returned at the end of a year’s time. It would then be up to the judge to decide if the situation has changed.
I am probably thinking a lot of the same things you are. I hate the courts. They’re too slow and tend to corruption. They’ll make a business out of returning guns to their owners just like they did with the pee tests drug offenders are made to take. But unfortunately, if our goal is to legally remove guns from deranged people, there is no way to do it without due process, and that means the courts.
Where I think this plan will help most, is with those people who are driven by events in their life to become unstable, like a divorce, or being fired from a long-held job. Besides physically removing his guns, it has the added benefit of requiring a PS under that kind of treatable emotional stress to see a mental heath professional, who will be able to identify and help a lot of shaky people get control of themselves. There are many people in jail today because they “snapped.” This system could not only protect society, it just might save a lot of people from spiraling down to the point of no return.
We already have laws that say a person can be placed on an involuntary hold if they are deemed to be a threat. Placing the guns of potentially threatening people on involuntary hold until they can show they aren’t mentally ill doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea, does it? It has to be better than our current plan to separate unstable people from guns, which is none at all.