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Judge turned lawmaker Morey proposes gun violence restraining order in NC

Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham)

Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) is calling on her colleagues to pass legislation that would remove guns from individuals who are considered a danger to themselves or others.

A Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) is similar to a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in that it would allow a district court judge to order the removal of all firearms from a person who “by clear and convincing evidence has exhibited threatening, erratic or dangerous behavior,” according to a news release from Morey.

It differs from the domestic violence order in that the petitioner would not have to be in an intimate or familial relationship with the person accused of the dangerous behavior.

Morey’s proposal comes days after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire with an AR-15 assault-style rifle in a South Florida high school and killed 17 people.

There have since been numerous media reports about Cruz’s telling behavior before the mass shooting.

“This gun restraining order proposal is not a solution to gun violence, but can be a step in the right direction to thwart future tragedies as it provides for people who ‘see something’ have the power not only to ‘say something’ but can ‘do something’ by going to court,” Morey states in her release. “As we now know numerous warnings about Nikolas Cruz were missed in Broward County. The FBI received the exact information that would have allowed a citizen to apply for a GVRO.”

Morey was a judge for 18 years before joining the legislature. She said she has presided over hundreds of defendants in criminal court with charges of murder and gun violence.

“Time and time again, I heard co-workers, neighbors and victims testify, ‘He was a time bomb. I knew this was going to happen,'” she wrote.

Time and time again, I heard co-workers, neighbors and victims testify, 'He was a time bomb. I knew this was going to happen.' Click To Tweet

Her proposal would allow anyone — such as a teacher, co-worker or acquaintance — with first-hand knowledge of another person who is in possession of or has access to a firearm, and is behaving in a threatening manner, to petition a district court judge for a GVRO. If granted, a judge would order law enforcement to immediately (and temporarily) take and secure any and all firearms from that person.

There would then be a hearing scheduled within 10 business days to give all parties an opportunity to testify why or why not the firearms should be taken away. If a judge finds “by clear and convincing evidence” that a gun violence threat exists, that person would be prohibited from possessing a firearm for one year. A violation of the civil restraining order would result in a criminal charge.

“Personally, I want to see federal legislation that would ban all AR-15s, semi-automatic military guns and bumpstocks,” Morey said. “A GVRO is not a panacea for stopping gun violence, but it could be a first step. The time to act with common sense legislation is now.”

There are a handful of states (Connecticut, Indiana, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington) that have some version of a law that allows either law enforcement or individuals with a relationship to a person considered to be dangerous to petition a court to remove their firearms.

A federal GVRO law was proposed by Congress last year and there has been a renewed calling for its passage since the Florida shooting.

There have been four mass shootings since mid-2015 in which federal authorities had a chance to intervene before they occurred — the Charleston church shooting, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the Sutherland Springs church shooting and now the Florida high school shooting.

National Review, a conservative editorial magazine, recently wrote at length about GVRO proposals, noting that advocates “have been mostly clustered on the left, but there is nothing inherently leftist about the concept.”

“After all, the GVRO is consistent with and recognizes both the inherent right of self-defense and the inherent right of due process,” the article states. “It is not collective punishment. It is precisely targeted.”

The National Rifle Association and other groups have opposed such laws as violating gun owners’ due process rights, according to a recent Reuters article.

It’s too early to tell where North Carolina lawmakers will stand on the issue.

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