Monday, May 16, 2016
“TRO” Bill Puts Victims at Greater Risk
Opinion by Rep. Rob Sampson
Domestic violence certainly is a problem that we should do all we can to combat. As I stated during the debate in the House of Representatives, if the bill before us was really designed to help the victims of domestic violence, it would have provoked little debate, and passed quickly and unanimously. The votes in opposition indicate that this bill involved more than its title suggests.
This Domestic Violence bill is really little more than a thinly-veiled attempt to restrict the rights of lawful gun owners. Without any due process, a gun owner’s firearms must be surrendered once a one-sided ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO) is filed against them. Only later is the merit of the TRO evaluated.
This legislation deprives the subject of the TRO of their right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, their right to face their accuser, the right to defend themselves in court, and their right to defend themselves via the second amendment – all based on a statement from another party that the accused has no opportunity to answer.
Proponents claim that taking away the firearms from a domestic abuser increases the safety of the abused filing the order. However, not all temporary restraining orders are filed over claims of domestic abuse; the great majority of them are frivolous and absurd, and quickly dismissed. Underthis bill, though, a lawful gun owner who is the subject of such an order must voluntarily surrender or sell his or her firearms, no matter how absurd the claim, and do so within twenty-four hours or be considered to have committed a felony.
Those in favor of the bill also make the flawed argument that those who wish to do physical harm to another will respect the laws we have in place. If someone is bent on committing the illegal act of assault or even murder, it is unlikely that they will bend to this restriction.
Proponents of this bill ignored the proper remedy for a dangerous situation: the risk warrant process, which is already law. Risk warrant applications can be made 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; and upon processing, a seizure can take place in as little as a few hours.
Above: Video of Rep. Sampson debating “TRO” legislation on the House Floor.
I believe that people who are truly in danger and fearful for their safety are better off contacting the police and seeking a risk warrant, rather than going through the court system, as the Domestic Violence bill requires.
There are other fundamental flaws in this bill: service of the warrant is at the abode rather than in-hand service, which means an otherwise innocent respondent who was away from home could become a felon unknowingly; the mechanism for the potential return of the firearms is flawed; and the civil court system is misused for what should be a police and public safety issue.
The worst flaw of all is the reliance on a one-sided accusation made only in writing, which will generate false claims and punish innocent people. It could even increase the danger to victims of domestic violence, since an abuser could use this policy to disarm a potential victim simply by filing a temporary restraining order, knowing it would leave the person defenseless.
Since I began my service as a State Representative, this may be the most onerous piece of legislation I have seen. Make no mistake: this bill does nothing to increase the safety of domestic violence victims. It is instead a sneaky way to deprive law-abiding gun owners of the right of due process.
During the debate, we offered common sense solutions sincerely intended to protect abuse victims. All were voted down.
I am confident most people understand that no state legislators would oppose protecting domestic abuse victims. The fact is, the bill which passed gives these victims no security, while it simultaneously makes a mockery of our American system of laws and justice.
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