How Do Responsible Gun Owners Confiscate Guns from Mental Ill Friends and Relatives?

The NRA will want to make the Waffle House shooting about mental illness, but is also about how to restrict, remove or confiscate guns from people who might be a threat to themselves or others.  In 2012 I wrote this piece asking the question, “Dear Tim: I’m worried my gun-carrying son will hurt others, how do I get his concealed weapons permit revoked?

What if your gun carrying friend or son is losing it and you are afraid for his life or the life of others. What do you do? What can you do? Let’s say he legally owns guns and has a legal concealed carry permit. He hasn’t been judged mentally ill by a judge, but he is clearly dangerous. What if your state doesn’t have a gun violence restraining law?

Recent laws in California give people a way to keep guns out of the hands of people in this situation.  Illinois, where Travis Reinking is from, recently passed a Violence Order of Protection Act, but state representatives are rewriting the bill and renaming it the Firearm Restraining Order.   Back in 2012 I asked responsible gun owners, “How would you handle this? The disturbed person is more likely to listen to you, a fellow gun owner, than me. What if you WANT to bring in law enforcement and there is no law broken?”

I’ve talked to police officers and sheriffs who have had to confiscate guns from people who were making threats.  As you can imagine, it’s  not their favorite thing to do. They also don’t have the manpower. In 2012, in Washington, if the police didn’t have a legal process to use the couldn’t act. They just had to wait until the disturbed person crossed a line.  We focus on the mass shootings but, many guns deaths are from suicide.

I’ve sincerely talked to people I know and respect who are guns owners and concealed gun carriers about this. I ask, “What’s the best way to do this?”

I’ve heard stories of how people in the military do this, but will how it is handled in that culture carry over to civilians?

This is an issue responsible gun owners really need to own. The issue of gun confiscation has become an internal cultural issue for gun owners.  Laws can address due process, legal rights and how this is done, but there needs to be a cultural understanding among gun owners about the need to remove guns from people.

The NRA is never going to bring up or support a bill like this, so will responsible gun owners get behind firearm restraining order laws? If not, please share with the process you use internally to protect your fellow gun owners from themself or others when they have gone off the rails. I don’t want to be the “gun grabber” in this situation, but someone needs to be, I want it to be you.  

On May 30th, police believe Ian L. Stawicki was armed when he entered Café Racer in the University District in Seattle at 11 a.m. He opened fire, killing four people and wounding another.

About a half hour later, Stawicki shot and killed 52-year-old Gloria Leonidas at Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street, near Town Hall on Seattle’s First Hill, according to police.

Yesterday the ABC affiliate station KOMO ran a story revealing Ian Stawick had a concealed weapons permit and that Walt Stawicki, the father of accused killer, says he knew his son was troubled and was getting more volatile, but believed there was nothing the family could do to get the concealed carry permit revoked.

“The response to us was, there’s nothing we can do, he’s not a threat to himself or others, or we haven’t had a report of it, or we haven’t had to pick him up – call us when its worse,” Walt Stawicki said in a Thursday morning interview with KOMO Newsradio.

In the rest of the story you hear of a family that knows there is a problem, but doesn’t know what to do to protect the safety of others. The father was hoping there was some minor incident with his son that would allow an intervention.

How would you help this father if he came to you asking for advice?

Instead of going to the usual experts I wondered what if Walt Stawicki had asked someone who strongly believes the best way to protect his children involves arming himself and others like Stawicki’s son. Imagine if two weeks ago Walt took this son’s problem to Tim Schmidt, the head of the United States Concealed Carry Association.

“Dear Tim. “My son has a CCW. He is starting to act more volatile and I’m now worried for the safety of the people around him. The police say, “There’s nothing we can do, he’s not a threat to himself or others, or we haven’t had a report of it, or we haven’t had to pick him up – call us when its worse,”

If he goes off and shoots someone I’ll feel terrible. I’m especially concerned when he is out in public with his CCW. What can I do to get his CCW revoked? What is the process? After it is revoked, what can I do to keep guns away from him? What steps do you suggest? “

-Signed, Imaginary Walt Stawicki, Seattle Washington.

This is a scenario that I’m sure many families and communities have had to deal with. I know the fear of a partner getting violent drives a lot of restraining orders, but how is the matter complicated when the person has a concealed carry permit?

I can already hear the cries, “If he wanted to hurt someone he could have used a knife or a car, do you want to ban all knives and cars!?” Yes, he could do that, and no, I don’t want to ban all knives and cars. So save the strawman arguments for YouTube comments.

The father knew there was a problem. His son’s weapon of choice was a gun, not a knife. A weapon that, because of his ability to easily and legally get a permit, gave him the official blessing to keep a handgun next to him ready to respond to his emotion with lethal force on a moments notice.

Now you can argue, and people will, that revoking the CCW would do nothing since he could continue to carry illegally. And guns don’t kill people yada, yada yada, bark, bark, woof, woof. But what would the action of revoking the CCW say to the son, the community and the police who issued it?

It would sent a message to the community,

“This person no longer can be trusted to carry hidden lethal force in public. The rights of the public to be safe in their community are more important than the privileged extended to this individual to carry a concealed weapon.”

It would send a message to the police,

“Approach with caution, had a conceal carry permit, might still be armed.”

What about the message it sends to the son?

“Your behavior or actions have indicated you can no longer be trusted to carry lethal force in public.”

How will the son interpret that message? Will he be angry? Will he understand the concern behind the revocation and agree? “Yep, it’s better not to have a handgun with me in public, I’m on the edge and I don’t want to take an action I can’t take back.”

Will he flip out and threaten to shoot anyone who tries to take away his guns? How he responds and how he interprets this will also tell us something about whether he should be able to maintain his CCW permit.

Like Revoking Drivers’ Licenses?

I don’t know what the exact process is in Washington to revoke the CCW permit, but I do know that they have a list of reasons they can use to revoke them. ( I also don’t know how it is enforced or managed, do they send the person a letter saying, “Permit revoked! Please tear it up and send the pieces to our office for verification.” )

If the father wanted to get the CCW permit revoked without getting his son committed for mental health treatment (which might not have been a bad idea in retrospect) he could go about setting up the “minor incident” he was hoping would happen.

Here is what the Washington State laws says about concealed pistol license — revocation.

(1) The license shall be revoked by the license-issuing authority immediately upon:

(d) An order that the licensee forfeit a firearm under RCW 9.41.098(1)(d).

How can you get that firearm forfeited? If the son was carrying out and about while drunk or stoned.

(1) The superior courts and the courts of limited jurisdiction of the state may order forfeiture of a firearm which is proven to be:

(e) In the possession of a person who is in any place in which a concealed pistol license is required, and who is under the influence of any drug or under the influence of intoxicating liquor, as defined in chapter 46.61 RCW;

So I’d tell the dad it’s a two step process. First, notify the police he is carrying while drunk, they will then require him to forfeit his firearm. Next, notify the police that his firearm was forfeit because he was carrying while drunk. His concealed pistol license will be revoked.

When a driver’s permit is revoked one message to the community is, “This person no longer can be trusted to drive in public.” Can people break the law and drive without a license, sure, but the process is in place to help the community protect itself from people who have become dangerous to themselves or others because of mental or physical problems.

If you know any seniors who have had their licenses revoked (or their keys taken away) you know that they usually have the self awareness that they have a problem. They might not be happy about it, but they agree with the decision and they want to remain law-abiding citizens who understand they have a duty to protect themselves and others.

Now when I offer this CCW permit revocation suggestion to some friends who aren’t familiar with responsible gun owners and people with hard won concealed carry permits, they will often say, “Taking away their CCW permits will mean nothing, they will carry anyway. Getting one gun forfeited won’t stop them from buying others illegally.”

What they don’t understand is that most responsible gun owners and people with conceal carry permits WANT to be on the right side of the law. Their self image is of a law-abiding citizen. And if that is challenged, they won’t necessarily jump to breaking the law. They will either try to remedy the situation by getting back on the right side of the law, or try to fix the law, by making the actions that are illegal, legal. (For example, working to make carrying in bars or federal buildings legal or helping felons get their guns back.)

In contrast, the gun manufacturers lobbying firm, the NRA, just wants more guns out there, they aren’t really that picky if they are in the hands of terrorists, criminals or law-abiding citizens. They don’t really care if you have 1000 hours of training in real life situations before you get a CCW permit or if you don’t know a trigger from a hammer.

Speaking of training, if you read “How to Get a Concealed Pistol permit” laws in Washington you will find an amazing fact: There is no training required to get a concealed pistol permit in the state of Washington. Zero. Nada. You don’t even have to watch a video.

My friends with concealed carry weapon permits believes live, in-person training should be required before permits are issues. They also believe that states that have no training requirements should not be allowed reciprocity with those that do. “I spent a lot of time qualifying for my permit, why should someone who hasn’t even proved they can safely handle a gun get the same ability to carry in public?”

Now, I’ve given the father and the family advice on what to do and how to go about getting a CCW license revoked. I think it would make a difference, and could prevent a tragedy. Will the head of the USCAA offer equally good advice to help prevent this tragedy? Will the members spend their energy thinking only about how getting guns out of the hands of one disturbed person with a CCW permit is going to impact them?

If they say it’s just “a crazy person” will they spend energy ensuring that “crazy people” ( or all the people who have serious mental health problems) get entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System? Note: The NICS’ database of mentally ill people has less than 20% of the records it should.

How they respond to this fathers plea for help can tell you just how serious they are about policing their own community, whether they will help work within the legal system or ignore reasonable requests and fight against the desires of a family and a community to be safer.

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