Richard Beary, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, does not like the fact that some cops are hesitant to confiscate guns from people deemed “dangerous” to themselves or others.
The Police Executive Research Forum conducted a survey of 266 police agencies in 42 states and found the following:
“More than a third of top police officials either believe they have no legal authority or did not know whether they could seize firearms from people who have been determined by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others…
Of those officials who believed they had such authority, more than half said they rarely or never used it in the past year…
Moreover, 60% of respondents said their agencies had no program or protocol for carrying out firearm confiscations.”
In response to these findings, Beary said that cops should err on the side of violating civil rights.
“This is a problem. I'm not surprised that officers are apprehensive or intimidated ... If there is a question, I would rather we confiscate. If we get hit with a lawsuit, then I'll deal with it..”
With the gun debate flaming up again after the tragic mass shooting in Oregon, some authorities are drawing their lines in the sand.
This particular facet of the gun rights issue has to do with certain conditions that, in the eyes of the courts, render people ineligible to own a gun.
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“Federal law prohibits firearms purchases from licensed dealers to people who have been found mentally defective, incompetent to handle their own personal affairs and those involuntarily committed to a mental institution.”
A judge can rule that people meeting these criteria can have their guns confiscated, on the basis that they are a danger to themselves or others.
For law enforcement advocates, the survey results paint a troubling picture. They believe that confiscating guns from former criminals or the mentally ill is crucial to reducing gun violence and preventing mass shootings.
"This is clearly not an everyday part of law enforcement, and it should be," said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "In most cases there is not a good process for removing guns. This is an area of big concern. We're allowing people to be armed when they are considered to be most dangerous.''
In 2001, California began the most aggressive gun confiscation campaign in the country. The Armed and Prohibited Persons program has seized thousands of firearms from “people who previously purchased one or more guns legally but later have become ineligible to possess firearms due to criminal conviction, mental instability or other conditions.”
California Dept. of Justice agents have conducted 14.012 investigations since 2013, confiscating firearms in a majority of those cases.
In Maryland, cops have “the discretion to seize a firearm and send to our property warehouse for safekeeping” if they believe the situation has become unsafe. They don’t track the number of weapons seized.
The practice of confiscating guns from those deemed dangerous by a judge or police officers is perhaps the grayest area for those debating gun control.
The opinion that a person is dangerous to themselves or others is being made by government authority figures, not by medical professionals. This opens up the possibility that normal people who are not actually “dangerous” are being denied their second amendment rights.
The question must be asked whether mass confiscation of guns from those deemed mentally ill or from former criminals actually has any impact on the rate of gun violence and mass shootings. Has it succeeded in ferreting out the few who decide to carry out senseless violence?