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Ohio lawmakers mull ways to take guns from those showing red flag of danger

(March 3, 2018) — In the wake of last month’s deadly Florida school shooting, Ohio legislators are considering ways to take guns from at-risk people before they might harm themselves or others.

The young man accused in the Parkland, Florida, attack showed clear warning signs of violence. According to the Associated Press, a woman had reported his disturbing behavior to the FBI, including photos of guns and sliced-up animals posted to his Instagram account.

Despite reports to both the FBI and local police, authorities say, the 19-year-old was able to use an AR-15 assault-style rifle to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate from Boardman, said he plans to propose legislation that would allow police to confiscate guns after receiving a tip and evidence that a person could post a risk to himself or others.

Law-enforcement officers would have to get an order from a judge to be able to confiscate guns and hold the weapons for up to 14 days, Schiavoni said. After no longer than that time, a hearing would be held so both parties could make their cases regarding the seizure of the guns.

“I think that if we go home before the break, and we don’t do anything about guns, that we’re failing the general public,” Schiavoni said.

Similar proposals have support from outside the legislature. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich said he would ask state lawmakers to create gun-violence protection orders that would allow guns to be taken temporarily from individuals who could harm themselves or others.

President Donald Trump also expressed support for such legislation in a televised meeting Wednesday.

“I like taking the guns early,” Trump said. “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Critics of the proposed state legislation say it would violate an individual’s right to due process, by allowing the seizure of property before the gun owner has a court hearing.

“Before you get to defend yourself or say anything, you should not lose your rights,” said Jim Irvine, board president of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “It’s a violation of our Fourth Amendment.”

Irvine said individuals should, instead, be prosecuted on charges of menacing for making threats, rather than seizing their guns. The cost of an attorney and the associated fees to retrieve a gun often is more than the value of the gun itself, he said.

“That’s like seizing a car if they think you’re going to drive recklessly,” Irvine said.

California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington currently have laws that allow authorities to seize guns preemptively. In some of those states, “red flag” laws also ban gun ownership by individuals whose guns have been seized.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Sgt. Tammy Kunz said Indiana’s law is not necessarily a “red flag” law because it does not prevent the purchase of firearms, but does allow for the retention of firearms for a specific time period.

Indiana’s law allows law-enforcement agencies to take and retain firearms belonging to a person considered “dangerous,” which Kunz said is defined as someone who presents an “imminent risk of personal injury to themselves or others at the time of seizure or in the future, based upon a showing of a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct.”

Because the hearings are civil and not criminal, Kunz said, they do not appear in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to determine a person’s eligibility to buy guns.

Indianapolis police have reviewed about 800 cases since the law’s implementation in 2005, Kunz said, though the law was not necessarily used in all of the cases.

About a third of the cases were filed into court, and 75 percent of those resulted in an agreement to dispose of the firearm. Others were adjudicated with either the court ordering disposal of the firearm or a court ordering release of the firearm, Kunz said.

According to a study on Connecticut’s “red flag” law, about 18 percent of cases resulted in the seized guns being returned to the person or someone known to the person. In 60 percent of cases, police held the guns. In 14 percent of cases, guns were forfeited or destroyed.

Schiavoni said he would introduce more bills regarding gun control to “add to the conversation.” He stressed the importance of discussing gun control.

“We have to come up with some resolution and some game plan moving forward before we hit the road for the summer,” Schiavoni said.