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Legislation may force some to surrender guns

The Washington legislature recently passed a bill that could allow courts to order individuals charged with domestic violence to surrender all of their firearms if a restraining order has been filed against them. The bill - House Bill 1840 - requires courts to provide individuals with a hearing before confiscating their weapons.

The bill further specifies that courts may only confiscate weapons if a clear preponderance of evidence suggests that the accused poses a significant physical threat to an intimate partner or that partner's child. It would also make it possible for the courts to forbid individuals found to pose credible threats to their intimate partners' families to own or possess firearms or dangerous weapons or a concealed pistol license in the future. The Washington state senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill last month. The bill will be sent to the governor to be signed or vetoed.

Should the governor sign the bill, individuals who are charged with domestic violence may find themselves unable to possess weapons or permits that they deem necessary for ensuring their personal security. The revocation of firearms rights is, however, not always permanent.

In some cases, people can be charged with domestic abuse because of a misunderstanding or a mistake. Even in these cases, they may be forced to give up their firearms. It can be difficult for individuals to clear up such misunderstandings alone. It can be even more difficult for individuals to have their weapons rights restored - even if they have had their convictions overturned. A criminal defense attorney may be able to assist individuals who have had their weapons rights revoked by filing petitions for rights restoration, scheduling and attending hearings and assembling proper documentation.

Source: Washington State Legislature, "Restoration of possession rights," 2014

Source: KGW, "Wash. OK's domestic violence gun law", March 07, 2014

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