Friday, October 02, 2015

Some American gun law thoughts

Given the latest American mass shooting (Oregon, 13 dead, 20 injured),  that appears very likely  to be another case of a person, probably with guns legally purchased by themselves or by a relative, who has gone nuts due to some perceived slight from fellow students, I was wondering whether one of the key differences between Australia and the US is not just the ridiculously easy access to firearms over there, but also the greater ease with which Australian authorities can remove firearms from people.

Well, I assume it is much easier in Australia.  Certainly, this is the situation if a person has a domestic violence protection order against them in Queensland:
A temporary protection order will suspend your weapons licence and a final protection order will revoke your weapons licence.
You are required to surrender all weapons licences and weapons possessed to a police officer as soon as practicable, but no later than one day after the court makes the order, or the order is served on you. If you fail to surrender licences or weapons in the time specified, you may commit an offence against the Weapons Act 1990 and will be liable to a penalty of up to 10 penalty units.
You cannot apply for a weapons licence for a period of 5 years from the date of the order if a protection order is made against you.
And certainly doctors who are concerned about whether a patient should have weapons can inform the police.   A booklet here describes the process and issues.

But in the US?   A paper from 2014 by some psychiatrists argues that national registries of the mentally ill aren't likely to help gun violence, but the power of authorities to order the removal of guns from those deemed "dangerous" might:
The debate regarding creation and maintenance of a national registry as a primary legal tool for keeping firearms out of the hands of people with mental disorders has obscured a potentially useful strategy for reducing firearm violence or suicide—temporary removal of a firearm from a person’s custody during periods of acutely elevated risk (32). Some states, e.g., California (33), permit removal of firearms from people during mental health emergencies and restrict access during the period of commitment. Specified clinicians in these states can work with appropriate personnel to facilitate removal of firearms from persons they believe are at significant risk of harm to themselves or others. Indiana and Connecticut (34) allow firearms to be removed from imminently dangerous individuals, whether or not they have mental disorders. Under the Connecticut statute, the state’s attorney or two police officers can file a complaint in court whereby temporary seizure of firearms of persons posing risk of imminent personal injury to self or others may be authorized for up to 14 days. After the initial firearm removal period, a court can extend the order for up to a year if it finds, after a hearing, that the danger persists. Under this statute, a history of confinement in a psychiatric hospital is only one factor that the judge may consider, in addition to several non-clinical factors, in evaluating the danger that the person presents.
I see that this comment from one site promoting "smart" gun laws in America indicates that the movement to make removal of guns easier has only just started:
Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO) empower families and law enforcement to petition a judge to remove guns from relatives who pose a risk to themselves or others. Shooters often exhibit dangerous warning signs, and GVRO laws help keep guns away from people with the intent to harm. California passed a landmark GVRO last year, in response to the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara. How many other mass shootings could have been prevented had the shooters’ families had legal recourse to keep them away from deadly weapons?
Of course, I expect the NRA will oppose such laws vigorously.  Yep, here's an NRA member complaining:
No one wants firearms in the hands of someone who’s not competent to own them. However, when someone crosses the danger to self or others threshold, they need immediate care, not a restraining order. Police and family members should focus on the individual, not their guns.
If the person is truly a danger to self or others, committing them to a psychiatric institution will safeguard them from their firearms.
Has anyone taken to these nuts the matter of how incredibly illiberal their idea is, not to mention the ridiculous increase in the number of psych ward beds you would need?   And of course, NRA membership would be almost a given for Tea Party Republicans, exactly the last people who would want the government spending the money that would be needed to make their "anything but the guns!" line in any way effective.

I'm glad I don't live there.

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