DC considering bill to force gun owners with temporary restraini - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DC considering bill to force gun owners with temporary restraining order to give up weapon

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The D.C. Council is considering a bill that would force registered gun owners to give up their weapons if those owners are slapped with a temporary restraining order.

Under current federal law, domestic abusers are already prohibited from having a gun. That happens if you are convicted of domestic violence or subject to a final restraining order.

What D.C. is going after is that gap of time between a temporary restraining order and a final restraining order, which happens when a defendant has a chance to go before a judge and make their case.

Opponents of the bill testified that this violates due process and could result in law-abiding gun owners having their guns confiscated without a chance to defend themselves.

"There needs to be safeguards so that truly dangerous people are prohibited from owning guns and the people who are not dangerous are allowed to maintain their Second Amendment rights -- even if they're going through a contentious divorce,” said George Lyon of the Community Association for Firearms Education.

"I think the government here needs to hear that I'm skeptical of the power they are seeking,” said Brian Wrenn, a registered gun owner in D.C. “I'm skeptical that they’re saying they are trying to protect people who might be vulnerable to circumstances where a protection order be needed. But I think that system could be abused and I don't think they'd do anything about it if it was."

The bill is sponsored by Councilmember Mary Cheh, but Councilmember Tommy Wells chaired the hearing.

Wells recognized Dick Heller was in the room, and said that while he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision that overturned the city's 30-year gun ban, he did acknowledge that the court ruled that having a gun is an individual right.

Domestic violence advocates testified that this bill is needed for the period when victims are most at risk.

"At the time a domestic violence survivor leaves a domestic violence situation, she or he is five times more likely to be murdered at that point,” said Karma Cottman, executive director of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “The violence escalates. The stalking escalates during that time and so the process for which the person receives a temporary restraining order is to allow them to have some of initial safety."

"There are different ways you can preserve people's rights and due process rights and still get weapons out of dangerous people's hands in a timely fashion,” said Tamaso Johnson, policy attorney for the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “I think this bill -- as written -- may need some tweaking, some refinement in order to balance the interest of that constitutional right with the interest of victims and the public."

What was interesting and very rare for a D.C. Council hearing was at the end, both sides and Councilmember Wells agreed that the bill is going to have be rewritten in order to abide by the Constitution.

This bill only applies to legal gun owners who have gone to the police department to register their gun. For illegal guns, if someone accuses you of domestic violence and having firearms, generally that gives the city enough to get a search warrant to search for those weapons.

We will continue to follow this bill.

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