Thursday, May 31, 2018

#TXLEGE: House Democrats' Stunt Illustrates Potential Unintended Consequences of Abbott "School Safety' Proposal

"Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:17

Our initial reaction to Governor Abbott's "school safety" proposal was that it sounded expensive and vague.  We were already planning to discuss how it was littered with potential unintended consequences.  But the house Democrat caucus illustrated our point better than we ever could:

Empower Texans explains Moody's bill:
Moody’s bill is a far-reaching anti-gun bill that stomps on the Second Amendment. If adopted, any household member or a prosecuting attorney could file an application asking a court to confiscate a person’s firearms. The court could then order all of the person’s firearms be seized, without a hearing and without notice to the accused.

The order could then be extended for up to two years without the case ever being submitted to a jury, and without any right of appeal. The accused would only be entitled to a hearing before a judge just 14 days after their firearms were initially seized, allowing little time for the person to find an attorney to represent them. At that hearing, the court would be required to take into account the accused person’s history of not just convictions but also arrests under a variety of laws, including any misdemeanor involving violence.

Notably, Moody’s bill calls on the court to issue its initial “ex parte” confiscation order if it finds “reasonable cause” to do so. That standard is even less than the probable cause standard required for police to place a person under arrest.

s “Put simply, Moody’s legislation is in complete contradiction with the very notion of “due process” and must be opposed by any legislator who takes their oath to the United States and Texas constitutions seriously,” said Tony McDonald, general counsel to Empower Texans.
Obviously, Moody's bill wasn't Abbott's intention.  But Abbott's proposal was vague enough that Moody's bill could conceivably fit.  We can't blame the Democrats for trying.

Therein lies the rub: Nobody objects to keeping firearms out of the hands of genuinely dangerous people.  But the process by which we make that determination is key.  The history of abuses based on specious 'mental health' grounds, backed by the force of government, isn't exactly pretty.

As it relates to 'mental health': Whatever proposal is ultimately adopted needs to be very carefully vetted by a team of lawyers.  And it needs to be done publicly.  This is one of those cases where the precise language of the statute is very important.

Then there's the fact that the legislature passed four allegedly 'major' mental health bills last session: What, specifically, would a new round of 'mental health' legislation accomplish that wasn't addressed in the last round?!?

Then there's the fact that Abbott's call for schools to install 'active shooter' alarms sounds like a boondoggle waiting to happen.  Somebody's going to get a big contract.  And it'll probably be one of the usual suspects.

Bottom Line: The Democrats just did us an unintentional favor; let's heed the lesson....

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