By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
Fears of the government suddenly seizing all firearms are unrealistic. Other countries have done it, sure, but just because there’s a possibility doesn’t mean there’s much probability. However, what worries some people is not a sudden universal confiscation, but instead an incremental one.
How would that happen?
Mostly through a series of laws being passed, each giving authorities the impetus to seize guns from defined groups of people. The more nebulous the description, the more people can have their guns taken away, until eventually virtually everyone is eligible to be disarmed, including the big game hunter, the person carrying for self-defense with a concealed carry holster, or the target shooter.
Some people are worried that it’s happening right now.
A few laws that have been passed in the past few years have made some people worried that incremental seizure laws are indeed how America will be disarmed. A recent example is currently headed for the governor’s desk in California, AB-785, which is similar to HR 2841, a federal bill (called the Disarm Hate Act) that’s currently in the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.
Both laws, in the broad strokes, prohibit sale to or possession of firearms by anyone convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime. Similar laws are already on the books in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon.
Now, certain hate crimes are violent, no doubt about that, and violent felons should necessarily be barred from possessing firearms. Violent bigots, doubly so. However, misdemeanor hate crimes can include defacing property, meaning a person could ostensibly lose their gun rights for a bit of graffiti.
Vandalism is definitely a crime and deserves prosecution, but does it merit a loss of Second Amendment rights? That seems a stretch, and it doesn’t take much to imagine a person losing their gun rights over a mean-spirited prank.
Should people who commit violent hate crimes have their firearms confiscated? Absolutely, but so does anyone who commits a violent crime. However, the language of these laws opens the door for confiscation for nonviolent crimes (or at least only violent against property) albeit for heinous crimes.
Washington state and Oregon have likewise been in recent news for expanded gun forfeiture laws; you may have even seen inflammatory clickbait articles warning of Washington or Oregon gun seizure laws that will purportedly disarm virtually everyone.
In reality, the laws in those states (and 17 more with similar laws on the books) expands the ability of law enforcement to seize firearms from people that have severe mental illness or have committed domestic violence. However, what the prognostication of impending doom in said clickbait doesn’t always mention is that such gun forfeitures in those states require the person in question to be proven to be a danger to themselves and others and for a judge to sign a court order.
In other words, people in those states that are mentally unstable, have committed domestic violence and/or are subjects of a protective order (people that shouldn’t be armed anyway) may be deprived of their guns but only after due process.
Again, hardly wholesale confiscation, but given the propensity for governments to liberally interpret constraints on their powers – one imagines it wouldn’t take much for a person to be deprived of their firearms in less than the full spirit or letter of the laws in question.
But that’s what makes the idea that much more disturbing. On one hand, the people that would be deprived of firearms under these laws aren’t exactly people that should have access to guns. Since due process is required, it’s hardly extrajudicial. On the other, how much can we trust the court system to restrain itself from abusing these powers?
We’ve all heard the old saw about a frog in water. Scientifically it’s bogus, but it’s a good metaphor for incrementalism. Now, a few laws allow for gun confiscation for mostly good reasons, but could be construed to allow it for dubious reasons.
What will the next round of gun confiscation laws be like?
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.