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Update: “Domestic violence” bill (HF3238/SF2639)

The short version:

This imported-from-New-York-City Bloomberg bill is a solution in search of a problem. As introduced, it ran roughshod over civil rights.

Since this bill isn’t going away — we don’t have the votes to kill it — we are working with our allies and the bill’s authors to transform it into something fair and constitutional. We’ve come a long way, and there are still more changes to come.

There’s another hearing Wednesday at 2:15 in Room 10 of the State Office Building, and if you can come to show your support for civil rights, we’d love to see you there.

The long version:

Last Thursday and today, the Minnesota Senate and House heard their separate versions of Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s “domestic violence” bill,HF2328/SF2639.

As originally sent over from New York City, the Bloomberg bill was a disaster: it violated the due process rights, gun rights, and property rights of accused citizens. Bloomberg’s organization cynically believed that Minnesota civil rights and gun rights supporters would be afraid to touch a bill related to domestic violence. After all, who wants to stand up for wife beaters?

But that’s not what it’s about. Civil rights are for everyone — even those accused of horrendous crimes.

The fact is, state and federal law already deals with this issue. This bill is comes from a need to be seen “doing something.”

But with anti-gun-rights DFLers in key committee positions, and their party controlling the House, Senate, and governor’s office, it is inevitable that some form of the bill will pass. Facing this reality, GOCRA and our allies in the Minnesota legislature had the tough task of removing the infringements in a way that the bill’s proponents would accept.

In New York or California, this may not have been possible. But this is Minnesota, where citizens’ voices are actually heard — and listened to — and where lawmakers on both sides of the issue are willing to talk, to listen, and to find common ground.

Because of your voices, and your willingness to flood the capitol with maroon shirts to support civil rights (and probably because this is an election year), the anti-rights faction can’t simply shove a truly bad bill through. Working with our allies — and our adversaries — we were able to craft language that fully protects civil rights while making the domestic violence prevention advocates feel that they were making a difference.

Photo courtesy of Mitch Berg’s Shot in the Dark blog

In the Senate

After making civil rights supporters wait in the hallway for more than six hours, the Bloomberg bill’s author of record, Sen. Ron Latz, made a few small but beneficial amendments to the bill on Thursday night, which limited the transfer of firearms to alleged abusers where a judge had made a specific, narrow finding of substantial danger to the household member seeking the order.

Following GOCRA attorney David Gross’s testimony, and after discussion with the committee’s legal counsel, Sen. Latz inserted clarifying language that limited the order for transfer to parties who had received due process of law, not just an accusation.

As a result of our discussions, Sen. Latz also testified to the committee that he intended to support House amendments allowing for “third parties,” such as friends or family, to take physical possession of the guns ordered removed from the accused, providing an alternative to the forced confiscation and imposition of “reasonable” fees that would quickly exceed the value of the guns.

While we’re not a big fan of “we had to pass it to see what’s (going to be) in it,” Sen. Latz’s comments on the record were a good sign that there would actually be material improvements to the bill. Because lawmakers rarely make promises like this, on the record, without following through, we expect that Sen. Latz will keep the promises he made to the committee.

In the House

The puppet-masters at Bloomberg HQ in New York would have loved to dictate terms to the local yokels in flyover country. But Rep. Dan Schoen, the House bill’s author of record (who is not just a lawmaker, but also a professional law enforcement officer), wanted to ensure that law-abiding citizens were protected, and that due process rights were respected. He understood the concerns that we and our House allies expressed to him about the original bill.

This morning in the House committee hearing, Rep. Schoen introduced an “author’s amendment” that addressed almost all of our concerns. It respected due process rights by limiting the orders of transfer to respondents who had already gotten their day in court, and where the judge found a “credible threat” to the physical safety of the petitioner.

The amendment also gives the respondent the right to transfer the firearms to a “third party,” as Sen. Latz told the Senate committee he wanted in the bill, and limited the orders to respondents who had had their day in court.

What comes next:

There are still a few problems with the bill as passed out of the House Public Safety committee:

  • The bill lacks protections for the privacy of the “third party” participants
  • It requires the third party’s affidavit to list the guns transferred by make, model and serial number — effectively registration (we believe that this data needs to removed, or at least placed in a sealed court record)
  • The bill needs to provide the respondent and third party with a reasonable period of time to both comply with the order, and provide the notarized affidavit to the court

The House bill will be heard tomorrow in the House Judiciary Committee:

HF 3238
Wednesday, March 26
2:15 pm.
House Judiciary Committee
Room 10, State Office Building

Rep. Schoen told the committee that he will have additional amendments; we are hopeful that they will address our remaining concerns.
If you can come, wear a maroon shirt (especially a GOCRA shirt), and try to arrive by about noon to ensure that you get a seat in the hearing room.

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3 comments to Update: “Domestic violence” bill (HF3238/SF2639)

  • Paul

    I am quite offended by the idea of what is portrayed in the recent story of domestic violent abusers being denied gun access. I feel it treats innocent victims of our judicial system as abusers without due process or standards of proof and removes civil and constitutional rights.

    My problem with the legislation is not that I think abusers should have guns, but rather, that the legislation proposed here removes the rights of citizens to bear arms without due process. It is applied to those who are not just abusers, but those who are simply accused of abuse.
    The problem is probably that the restraining orders and OFPs that are handed out like candy only require a preponderance of evidence standard in courts. This means that when a true abuser wants revenge, they can get restraining orders and OFPs simply by their allegations. They are also routinely used as “no contact” mechanisms and tools to remove people from homes, simply with false allegations. There are problems in dismissing these court orders due to judges rather being “safe than sorry” so innocent people are placed here and false allegations are common. Many times the real abuser is the one providing false allegations, so that means the real “victim in the situation can’t protect themselves, but the one without the restraining order can get a gun?
    This legislation from the story that I heard isn’t about removing constitutional rights from abusers, but from all who have been accused of abusing, including those who are innocent and accused out of revenge or vengeance in ending a relationship.
    I would have no problem with removing guns from abusers who were “proven” to have abused, with a criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt and if consequences were in place and used for false allegations. Restraining orders and OFPs are used as tactical advantages in revenge and vengeance and provide no standard of proof and need higher standards of proof. Right now, they are ruining people’s lives of innocents who get caught with vindictive partners using them for the wrong reasons. They remove people (mostly fathers) from homes, and for single dads they also remove their children with (sometimes full-time) fathers in mixed households.

    In addition to a standard of proof, start legislation that provides enforceable consequences for those who create false allegations. They are rarely, if ever prosecuted.
    I’m also offended that the story says it’s to protect women and children. What happens when I’m a single dad with kids trying to protect my child from an abuser? There’s no one to protect us. I, myself finally gained sole physical custody of my child after endangerment in his biological mother’s care, all after the courts told me in Appellate court years ago that she had more experience parenting. I am tired of being male and accused in courts and having no standard of proof to defend my innocence. I have videos of emotional abuse against my son and I, but guess what? It doesn’t matter because the courts seems to want to protect the woman and her false allegations and they don’t “prove” in a preponderance of evidence standard that a person is innocent. I’ve never owned a gun, I don’t care to, but I’m offended having my rights and civil liberties taken away by a gender-biased judicial system with no “proof” that I’m an abuser except it’s better to be safe, and you’re a guy, so there’s reason to believe you probably are an abuser. If you ever have a relationship with a vindictive narcissist you know they look like they are a good person and the real victim is thrown into helplessness. Please help correct that in the legislature. Make more stories of this known until it gets fixed.
    I understand the good intentions, but it is far-reaching and the outcome when put into action is not the intentions that are portrayed.
    I have my own story that relates, I’m sparing the details, but I believe my point and feelings are clear above.

  • Paul

    I also see that our “due process” issues are addressed, but without knowing what those are, I hav a hard time believing they are if they are based on restraining orders and OFPs which have a standard of preponderance of evidence and not beyond a reasonable doubt. HROs and OFPs already don’t have “just” due process.

  • Joe

    I was able to attend the hearing yesterday (Tues.). Ms. Zappa’s testimony was quite compelling and helpful. The rep. from the MN Sheriff’s Assoc. was good too.

    The aspect of police property room issues is quite valid. Those with experience in this area would concur. Most people think a property room is just an extra garage stall where “stuff” can just be put in a corner. Or, like on TV, a football-sized room with miles of aisles and shelves. Not true.
    There are state statutes which strictly govern the process,and a great deal of time is needed for proper intake and release, particularly with guns. Remember the Gang Task force? Serial number collection is, I believe, mandatory for recording purposes. Additionally, orders often include surrender of just “weapons”. I am aware of a situation where about 20 “weapons” had to be taken in and released within the same week. The property included guns, ammo, knives, air guns, bows and arrows. A major project.

    I suspect that a real property room manager or supervisor would concur. I mean someone who does the work, not an administrator who has little knowledge of the processes.

    A great deal of Bloomberg’s proposal, on it’s face seems unlawful, impractical,or unworkable. Keep up the good work.