Virginia HB 559

This is one that VCDL is not currently tracking. I sent Phillip an e-mail suggesting that we may want to take an official position on it; we’ll see what he says.

The basic gist is that HB 559 would relax the standards used to issue an involuntary commitment order. The current standard requires a finding that the individual

is imminently dangerous to himself or others.

The new standard would require only that

there exists a substantial likelihood that, as a result of that mental illness the defendant will, in the near future, cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening such harm or any other behavior that indicates that the person may cause serious physical harm to himself or others.

The problematic part of that is the final phrase: “or any other behavior that indicates that the defendant may cause serious physical harm to himself or others.”

That is pretty vague if you ask me. What constitutes “any other behavior?” Perhaps being a gun owner? Publishing a blog about guns or the Second Amendment? Perhaps a photo holding a gun, or being a member of a group with a controversial name…like, say…”The People of the Gun?” Publicly expressing your opinion about gun rights?

This is how it happens folks: a lifetime gun ban for being involuntary committed, then start relaxing the standards for involuntary commitment until nothing more than the desire to own a firearm is enough to decide a person exhibits “behavior that indicates that the person may cause serious physical harm to himself or others.”

“But, but, but…” naysayers will claim “…if you aren’t crazy, you won’t be getting evaluated right?”

Remember the story of Troy Shiffler? The Hamline University student who was suspended from school for expressing his opinion about concealed carry bans on campus? You know, the one who was required to undergo a psychological screening (at his own expense) before being allowed back to school?

Slippery slopes are much harder to climb back up than they are to slide down. Vague language has no place in legislation that can have such dire consequences for those who run afoul of it.

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