“From addressing the incidence of mass shootings to combatting the scourge of firearm violence plaguing our urban communities, I stand ready to work with you on sensible solutions that could actually prevent these atrocities. What I am not willing to do is support legislation that will do nothing to make us safer and simultaneously infringes on the rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.”
WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at today’s markup of H.R. 1236.
Below are the remarks as prepared.
Ranking Member Collins: Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this markup today to address gun violence in our nation. Like you, I am concerned about addressing this very important issue. From addressing the incidence of mass shootings to combatting the scourge of firearm violence plaguing our urban communities, I stand ready to work with you on sensible solutions that could actually prevent these atrocities. What I am not willing to do is support legislation that will do nothing to make us safer and simultaneously infringes on the rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. Unfortunately, all three bills we are considering today do just that.
First, we will be considering H.R. 1236, the “Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019.” While this bill may seem like a commonsense measure, it is flawed in far too many ways to be worthy of this committee’s support. Five months ago, our distinguished chairman gave a lengthy interview to one of his hometown papers. He declared, “[m]y original motive in politics, from the time I was probably 12 years old, was civil rights and civil liberties and due process[.] I have always concentrated on them, and that has never changed.”
I’m not sure what has changed in the five months since that interview, but the bill before us today has serious due process problems. Namely, this bill allows for the confiscation of an individual’s firearms without notice or an opportunity to be heard. Even more egregious is the fact that this ex parte determination can be made when a judge finds there is a reasonable cause to believe the individual poses a danger to himself or others by having access to a firearm.
Reasonable cause is not even probable cause. It is certainly less than clear and convincing evidence. Do we really want to surrender Americans’ constitutional rights to such a low standard without giving those citizens notice or an opportunity to be heard? What other rights are my colleagues on the other side willing to sacrifice so easily?
The ex parte proceeding standards are not the only flaws found in this bill. For a permanent order, the court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual poses a danger to himself or others by having access to a firearm. We don’t convict people of petty crimes by a preponderance of the evidence, but my colleagues want to take away constitutional rights with merely a finding of preponderance of the evidence? Ours is the committee charged with protecting due process and every constitutional right, not eviscerating them.
Yet the defects in this bill continue to emerge. Once the court finds a person too dangerous to possess a firearm, what does the bill indicate the court should do? Does it provide for some sort of incapacitation, detention, evaluation or provision of mental health services? No, the bill is silent. It does nothing to address the person’s possible illnesses or instabilities, even though a court just determined him or her dangerous enough to be stripped of a fundamental constitutional right. I suppose we should all just hope and pray such dangerous individuals don’t have access to knives, automobiles, accelerants, explosives or any other item to harm themselves or others.
H.R. 1236 allows any person to petition to take away any other person’s Second Amendment right with a court order. There is no required nexus between the parties — they don’t even have to know each other. In light of that, it’s unthinkable that this bill doesn’t require a law enforcement officer to independently substantiate the claim and that there are no penalties for making a false claim against someone.
These are just a few of the myriad of problems cemented into this bill. I’ve seen and heard the statements of some of my Republican colleagues indicating that they would be willing to consider “red flag” legislation. Unfortunately, the proposal before us today is so flawed that anyone committed to our Constitution can’t seriously consider it. Why my Democrat colleagues are so eager to abandon the bedrock of our constitutional freedoms and due process is beyond me.