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Don’t erode constitutional rights

The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

But this year’s legislative session has two bills that take aim at that supposedly unfettered right.

One bill would require a background check on all firearms transfers — including those between family members. That bill, or an initiative mirroring the language, will likely end up on the ballot in November.

But a second gun-control measure, House Bill 1849, is headed to the Senate after unanimous approval in the House.

The bill could require gun owners with a no-contact order — sometimes called a restraining order or protection order — against them to surrender firearms as a condition of the order. While most courts already require guns to be turned in while such an order is in place, making the measure law is certainly an end-run around on the Second Amendment as well as an attempt to weaken the right to due process.

The bill passed the House on a 97-0 vote and is headed to the Senate. A similar bill died last year in the Senate.

Under the House bill revived this session, language has been added to give judicial oversight into the process before an order to surrender firearms can be approved.

But given the ease of getting a no-contact order in our state, the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect gun owners from having their constitutional rights usurped.

In our state, it is fairly common for no-contact orders to be issued in divorce cases, especially if one of the people involved simply claims he or she is in fear of the other. Many attorneys capitalize on that fact as a way to get leverage over an opposing party.

Let’s not forget how quickly a no-contact order is issued in cases of alleged domestic violence that sometimes result from simple arguments.

And who is going to decide what a credible threat is when considering whether or not to demand guns be turned in? Will there be a minimum standard to be met statewide, or will the decision rest solely with judges?

Constitutional rights certainly should outweigh the ability of a court to demand firearms be surrendered from someone who hasn’t been found guilty of a violent crime.

We already have laws on the books to deal with violent residents. Let’s not introduce a measure that erodes our constitutional rights in many cases that do not warrant the intrusion.

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via e-mail at rharnack@omakchronicle.com.

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