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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
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
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. Under
this 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
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.
Rep. Sampson delivers a very statesmanly address in the video.ReplyDelete