Gun confiscation rules need to be tightened

A law that allows courts to confiscate guns from those convicted of child or domestic abuse or facing a restraining order was well intentioned when it was passed on a bipartisan vote in 2014, but a recent report shows lax enforcement is still putting victims at risk.

A KARE 11 TV investigative report aired in February shows about 3,000 cases of orders for protection statewide that automatically required the perpetrator to surrender firearms. The required affidavit showing the firearms were removed and where they went was filed in just 4 percent of the cases. So even though judges give court orders to confiscate guns, it appears such confiscation does not happen in hundreds of cases. The law in question was actually sponsored by two former law enforcement officers in the 2014 Legislature — Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, and Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park. Both recently resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment.

But at the time, the law passed with bipartisan support because the alleged perpetrators had the so called “due process” of a court hearing before their firearms were confiscated. And judges considered whether guns were used in the threats that were the evidence used to issue the order for protection and confiscate guns.

But that law also made private the names of those individuals whose guns were confiscated, leaving even fewer ways to see if the law was being followed.

There also does not appear to be any audit of the current system to determine if firearms were confiscated where required. Judges had leeway in court hearings to allow domestic abusers to have guns if, for example, they claimed they were going hunting.

A proposed law that would allow courts to issue gun violence protective orders after a hearing would streamline the process of confiscating firearms from those who’ve threatened violence. The proposed law would help eliminate some of the flaws of the current system.

That bill (HF 1605) is supported by the Minnesota Coalition of Battered Women, but was tabled and left to die in the House Public Safety Committee on a party line vote with Republicans voting against having a hearing on the bill. It’s clear that the laws set up to confiscate firearms from those convicted of domestic violence or threatening violence are flawed and ineffective.

We urge the Legislature to make changes to ensure victims of domestic violence can feel confident our public safety system will protect them.

–Mankato Free Press

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