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When Can Police Legally Seize Guns?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Gun violence, and the laws intended to curb it, has increasingly become the central focus of politicians, legislators, citizens, and courts. And judging from recent laws and rulings, that won't change any time soon.

One of those new laws is California's "gun violence restraining order," which allows police to seize and destroy firearms possessed by mentally ill people. How does this law permit legal gun seizures, and under what other circumstances may police legally seize guns?

An Immediate and Present Danger

California's Assembly Bill 1014 authorizes:

"...a court to issue a temporary emergency gun violence restraining order if a law enforcement officer asserts and a judicial officer finds that there is reasonable cause to believe that the subject of the petition poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself, or another by having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm and that the order is necessary to prevent personal injury to himself, herself, or another."

Once the restraining order is issued, the person would be prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition and would be required to surrender any guns to local law enforcement.

The law went into effect on January 1st, and prosecutors in Los Angeles have unveiled plans for how to request a gun violence restraining order and how they will be implemented. Along with law enforcement, family members may also petition to have guns seized from relatives.

Other Lawful Seizures

California's might be the first gun restraining order, but it's not the only method by which police may legally seize guns. If law enforcement has a reasonable suspicion that a gun is either illegal or has been used in the course of a crime, they may seize it. And even if the gun is legal and you have a permit, if you are being arrested for some other reason and have a firearm on you, police may seize the gun incident to a lawful arrest. Also, some recently released prisoners may have their gun rights restricted or revoked entirely as conditions of their parole.

Contrary to popular belief, President Obama has not started "confiscating guns by force." So as long as you've legally obtained your gun, you don't break the law with it, and you're not posing an imminent threat to yourself or others, no one is coming for your gun.

If you have questions about gun violence restraining orders or if you feel your gun as been unlawfully seized, you can contact an experienced criminal attorney in your area about your case.

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