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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 20, 2018 08:51 AM
From: Senator Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Public Protection Orders for Confiscation of Firearms
In the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, I will soon introduce legislation to allow citizens to obtain from a court a public protection order when they see evidence of a threat to public safety.

After mass shootings like the one in Parkland, we often learn that there were many warning signs prior to the shooter acting. We hear of threatening or violent social media activity, expressions of admiration for other mass shooters, and threats to bring guns to a school or other public place. People rightfully wonder why someone behaving like that has access to firearms.

My new bill will empower Pennsylvanians who see something he or she considers threatening by granting them the legal standing to petition a judge to issue a public protection order. The order would separate the respondent from his or her firearms on a temporary basis.

The petitioner would have the burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that words or actions of a respondent create a reasonable belief that the respondent is a danger to the community. This burden could be met by direct testimony, letters, social media activity, or other evidence that, considering the totality of the circumstances, establishes a risk of violence.

These petitions would be decided by a neutral judge. The respondent would have the opportunity to be heard, the right to counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to present evidence on his or her behalf.

Under this protocol, the only issue before the court would be the confiscation of firearms. There would be no other criminal or civil penalties. The court would be empowered to impose certain conditions, such as counseling, anger management training, and a psychological evaluation. However, those conditions would only relate to a respondent’s possession of his or her firearms. Failure to comply with such conditions would not result in any other criminal or civil punishment.

Should the court order the confiscation of a respondent’s firearms, the respondent could at any time petition the court for the return of their firearms. He or she would be given the opportunity to offer evidence of compliance with any court-ordered requirements and may present other evidence establishing that his or her firearms should be returned.

My proposed legislation was first suggested by a mother who lost her child in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Similar policies, sometimes known as “extreme risk protection orders” or “red flag laws,” have already been enacted in Washington, California, Connecticut, Oregon, Indiana, and Texas, and is being considered in 19 other states.

Please join me in supporting this important legislation. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.