In the wake of a recent rash of mass shootings in the United States, the Seattle Police Department became the first in the state of Washington to confiscate a citizen’s gun under a newly-enacted law. The law, called an “Extreme Risk Protection Order,” allows police officers in the state to disarm and confiscate the weapons from people deemed to be a danger to others or to themselves.
As KOMO News reports, the private citizen who had his.25 caliber gun confiscated has not been publicly named. However, he was reportedly “well known” to his neighbors for wandering the hallways of his Belltown apartment complex carrying his gun, as well as for “staring down” customers of local businesses while packing his weapon. According to Seattle police, the unidentified man had been making people uncomfortable and intimidating them for approximately a year before his gun was confiscated.
It was reportedly the sheer volume of calls that spurned the Seattle Police Department into taking action against the man. On March 1, the department opted to seek an Extreme Risk Protection Order (or ERPO) against the man in an attempt to convince him to hand over his gun voluntarily. When he refused, the new Washington law allowed the Seattle police to obtain a warrant to legally confiscate his gun.
Neighbor Tony Montana claims that the man in question had an extensive history of wandering around his apartment complex with his gun. Montana added that the man’s behavior “created a lot of fear.” According to Montana, he never knew if his neighbor might be coming after him with his gun, or even if he may be planning to “start shooting the place up,” and went on to say that he wholly supports the new law that allowed the Seattle Police Department to intervene before somebody got hurt.
“I’m very supportive of this law. This is a perfect case in point where it’s had some efficacy. It was an immediate crisis and law enforcement was able to remove his firearms, so it very well could have saved lives.”
Law enforcement reportedly suspect that mental illness was a likely factor in the man’s behavior leading up to the confiscation of his gun.
Not surprisingly, when news that the Seattle Police Department had confiscated a gun under Washington’s new ERPO law, social media was bombarded with posts from those who believed that the police had acted inappropriately. Some called the gun confiscation “Nazi-style” action, while others claimed that the Seattle police acted in a manner inconsistent with the Constitution.
At least one Twitter user called for conservatives to “take to the streets” in protest.
Some news articles even reported that the police confiscated the gun despite the fact that they had no warrant and its owner had broken no laws. However, as The Weekly Standard reports, the Extreme Risk Protection Order was a warrant and was issued after the unidentified man failed to show up to a court hearing.
In addition to having his firearm confiscated, the gun owner was also reportedly arrested for “violating a previous order to turn over his firearms,” according to Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud. Seattle Police Department Sergeant Eric Pisconski lauded the new legislation that allowed his department to legally remove the firearm from a potentially mentally ill and/or dangerous citizen.
“There’s certainly a big concern of the connection between mental health and people exhibiting violent behavior and whether or not they should have access to firearms. The ‘ERPOs’ give us that tool now as an option.”
This is not the first time that an ERPO was served and executed in the state of Washington, but this is the first time that a police department has had to seize a gun from an owner who refused to comply with the order by relinquishing their firearm. ERPOs allow guns to be confiscated for a term of one year but are renewable.