New gun law has a strange twist

Anyone subject to an "extreme risk protection order" will be barred from having or buying any guns for a year.

The new gun law known as Senate Bill 719 seems to have a loophole at least as dangerous as the people at whom the law is supposedly aimed. Albany police officials pointed this out when they briefed the city council on the law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Chief Mario Lattanzio and Capt. Eric Carter of the Albany Police Department outlined the law at the city council's work session on Monday.

The law authorizes courts to issue "extreme risk protection orders" against persons who are likely to harm themselves or others "in the near future." The orders may be requested by family or household members of the person, or by law enforcement. Such an order prohibits the named person to have dangerous weapons such as firearms for a year.

The law says owners have 24 hours to surrender their guns -- and any concealed handgun license if they have one -- once they are served. So here you have someone who a judge is convinced may kill himself or others at any moment. He's told he has 24 hours to hand over whatever weapons he can get his hands on.

Police are wondering what that person might do in the 24 hours. Grab his guns and take off? Hide the weapons? Go on a rampage?

The law also says that if such an order is continued after a year, the person must surrender any weapons "immediately" and the police may search for any that are hidden. But if the order was obeyed in the first place, what weapons are there to surrender?

The chief and Carter said that if a risk order is requested by the police and granted by a judge, it will be up to the police to serve it. If requested by the family or household, service would be done by the sheriff's office.

It wasn't clear why this was on the work session agenda. The council has no control over the legislation or the courts. Councilman Rich Kellum, though, was worried about the apparent lack of due process. People hit with such an order can ask for a hearing, but only after the order has been issued. So, Kellum said, people can "have their stuff taken" without prior notice. Lattanzio said ordinary restraining orders work he same way. (hh)

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