You and your spouse get into an argument. Neighbors hear “angry” voices. Someone calls 911. The cops arrive. You’re charged with domestic violence. Your hunting rifle, shotgun, and handgun join the “assault” rifle as taboo for family or personal self-defense.
On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States extended firearm confiscations from citizens convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence under 18 USC 922(g)(9) to include reckless conduct. Twenty years ago, a felony conviction resulted in the denial of second amendment rights. Intentional and knowing misdemeanor conduct in domestic violence cases had earlier provided grounds for confiscation. Adding “reckless” misdemeanor conduct mirrors the direction of the national second amendment debate.
In Colorado, confiscation of firearms and denial of firearm rights in matters of domestic violence began in July, 1985 with the enactment of C.R.S. 18-1-1001. That law established a mandatory protection order for any defendant from the time of the advisement of the charges until the final disposition of the action.
Protection orders in a domestic violence cases include other prohibitions. The spouse may be, and often is, ordered from the home. Alcohol or any other “controlled substances” is forbidden. Not only firearms, but ammunition owned by the defendant must be surrendered within 24 hours to a firearms dealer or a police agency for storage. The property can also be sold through a licensed gun dealer.
Of course, the defendant may request a hearing to modify the protection order. But, when it comes to guns, prosecutors and judges take few risks. Violation of the mandatory protection order is addressed under C.R.S. 18-6-801. While the violation begins as a class 2 misdemeanor, a third conviction metastases into a class 5 felony.
Few persons would doubt the importance of protecting victims of domestic violence. In fact, congress enacted its second amendment prohibitions for misdemeanor domestic violence in 1996 under the Clinton administration. Colorado then included the federal restrictions of 18 U.S.C. sec. 922(g)(8) to its own protection order prohibitions in 2013.
The hard fact for persons facing domestic violence charges is that a misdemeanor conviction is nearly as serious as a felony, and repeated violations of protection orders rise to the felony level. Although a citizen faces loss of rights from the moment of advisement, the long term loss of rights can only be prevented through a vigorous criminal defense that results in a dismissal of the domestic violence element of the charges or an acquittal. That’s the high price of freedom in a society that has evolved from self-reliance and self-defense to one of governmental control.