American Bar Association supports gun violence restraining orders

The American Bar Association approved a resolution Tuesday to support gun violence restraining orders, despite opposition from some over issues of due process.

The measure, Resolution 118B, passed in the ABA House of Delegates on Tuesday and encourages state and local governments to enact laws allowing courts to issue restraining orders that would require law enforcement to seize guns from the subjects of those orders, the ABA Journal reported.

Ex parte temporary restraining orders are also included in the resolution, and such orders do not require the presence of the individual targeted by the order.

Under the resolution, those seeking a restraining order would be required to submit evidence that the targeted individual poses a serious threat to himself or others, and a procedure must be set in place for the seizure of guns and ammunition.

Subjects of such orders would also be prohibited from obtaining a firearm or firearms license while under the order, the resolution states, as their names would be added to state and federal databases.

Included in the resolution is a report that concludes such restraining orders could help prevent mass shootings by disturbed individuals, pointing to cases such as that of Dylann Roof in South Carolina and Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona in which both shooters exhibited warning signs before carrying out their attacks. The report also argues that domestic violence restraining order laws have been effective in every state and could act as models for laws regarding gun violence restraining orders.

Estelle Rogers, member of the Civil Rights and Social Justice section, said she supported the resolution and called it “common-sense reform.” She also argued that the right to keep and bear arms is not absolute, as the Second Amendment only protects law-abiding citizens and not those who pose serious threats.

Monte Frank of Newtown, Connecticut, also spoke in favor of the resolution, arguing a Connecticut gun seizure law had been used 762 times to seize firearms and had saved lives in the process. He said he wished the law would have been used in Newtown, where 20 children and six school staff members were murdered in a 2012 mass shooting.

Others spoke out against the measure, including Peter Langrock of Vermont, who said, “I’m here because I’m a lawyer and I believe in the Constitution.”

Langrock argued the resolution brought up major First Amendment and 14th Amendment due process concerns, and those concerns were echoed by the Law Student Division, which also opposed the measure.

Laws allowing firearms to be seized from those under gun violence restraining orders have been enacted in California, Connecticut, Indiana and Washington. Police in Illinois and Massachusetts can also take advantage of gun licensing laws to seize guns from people posing potential threats.