Shooting victims and gun rights groups testified before the House Appropriations committee this week about a bill that would allow a judge to confiscate someone’s gun if that person poses an extreme risk of violence.
Rep. Laurie Jinkins, committee member and prime sponsor, says it would prevent cases similar to Joel Reuter, Sheena Henderson and Chris Henderson, three people who have been the subject of several mental illness and gun bills this session. Reuter was killed by police after an eight-hour standoff during a mental health crisis. Chris Henderson killed his wife, Sheena, then himself after having his gun confiscated — then returned — by police.
“In my mind, this would provide a tool for families in the very rare circumstances when they see their loves one descending into an extreme level of mental illness,” the Tacoma Democrat said.
House Bill 1857 creates an “extreme risk protection order,” allowing family members or law enforcement officers to petition a judge to take away an individual’s firearms and gun licenses for a year.
Courts, under the bill, could use threats of violence, incidents of domestic violence and violations of harassment, stalking and sexual assault protection orders to determine whether an individual presents an extreme risk of violence. Reckless use of a firearm, prior felonies and substance abuse would also be factors.
California passed a similar law after a gunman killed six people near University of California, Santa Barbara. The shooter’s family members alerted authorities to disturbing behavior, but could not have his firearms removed.
NRA lobbyist Brian Judy told lawmakers the bill would not make Washington safer. “This bill ineffectively targets the tools, but not the problem,” he said. “It creates a false sense of security. You’re going to take the firearm, but let the person go and leave the person in society to carry out harmful designs by other means.”
Cheryl Stumbo, a survivor of the 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting, told lawmakers her shooter’s family was aware of his deteriorating mental state. “I met my shooter’s father in the courtroom,” she said. “He begged for my family and me to forgive him, if not his son. I know this legislation won’t stop every killer, but I remember the pain in the courtroom.”
Other opponents of the bill worry about false accusations, or lack of due process.
Bill Burroughs is a retired Pierce County Sheriff who spoke in opposition to the bill, saying it leaves “loopholes” for civil rights.
“It lacks due process in the sense that guns can be removed from you without have the chance to speak to a judge beforehand, without an arrest, without any kind of mental commitment,” he said.
No action was taken on the bill Thursday. It passed earlier this month out of the House Judiciary committee, which Jinkins chairs. Among several gun bills introduced this year, the extreme risk protection order proposal has so far advanced the furthest.
As of Friday morning, the bill had not been scheduled for a committee vote. Friday is the deadline for bills to move out of fiscal committees.