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Washington House passes bill to expand ‘red flag’ gun confiscation – likely to pass Senate

A handgun. (Max Pixel/Free Use)
February 19, 2020

Lawmakers in Washington’s state House of Representatives voted on Friday to pass a bill that would allow courts to consider confiscating firearms and concealed carry licenses from otherwise lawful gun owners accused of abuse.

House Bill 2305 aims to expand the powers of the state’s Vulnerable Adult Protection Order laws to allow courts to decide whether to confiscate the firearms of a subject of the protective order, according to the Kitsap Daily News. The House voted 55-42 to pass the bill and it has now been introduced to the state Senate for consideration.

“This bill gives judges the same tools they have for other protection orders to order the surrender of firearms if there is evidence that the subject of the order has used or threatened to use a firearm,” said Beth Doglio, D-Olympia, who sponsored the bill.

The bill allows the court to order the decision for the confiscation of a firearm based on a “preponderance of the evidence but not by clear and convincing evidence,” that the subject of the protective order has displayed or threatened to use a firearm.

The bill’s text also states that the protective order can stay in effect for up to five years.

Democrats currently hold a strong majority in the Senate with 29 seats, in contrast to the Republicans with 20 seats.

Courts can already order firearms confiscated in other types of protective orders, including for domestic violence and stalking, but the Vulnerable Adult Protection Order is typically used to protect elderly adults and those legally incapacitated or diagnosed with developmental disabilities. A person with such vulnerabilities, who claims to be suffering abandonment, abuse, neglect or financial exploitation or an interested party may file for such a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order against their alleged abuser.

Those found in continued possession of a firearm despite a confiscation order could be charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Rep. Morgan Irwin, R-Enumclaw argued, House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill, that firearm surrender orders already require prior evidence of a threat and that the new measure would grant the court any new capabilities.

Matthew Aimonetti, a representative of Pink Pistols gun and LGBTQ rights advocacy group, also testified against the new bill during the committee hearing.

Aimonetti reportedly warned that the legislation did not allow for due process and could be used to maliciously target people for firearms confiscations. Aimonetti warned that the bill would deny Second Amendment rights to individuals without being convicted or even charged with a crime.

The concept of confiscatory action, based on a protective order, rather than criminal charges or convictions, has become popular among gun control proponents throughout the country and known in some instances as ‘red flag’ laws.