Potential bill may give police the right to temporarily take away guns

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Democratic Rep. Ivory Thigpen has introduced a bill that would allow law enforcement officers to temporarily take away a person’s guns if they’re considered a risk.

The bill is currently under committee review, but it is a version of an extreme risk protection order (ERPO).

These orders enable court to temporarily prohibit a person from having guns if officials determine they pose a significant threat.

In this case, law enforcement officers would have to file a complaint with a probate court and have to prove probable cause that a person poses a risk of “imminent personal injury” to himself or other individuals.

A judge could look at factors like recent threats made by the person, acts of violence, and alcohol abuse when determining if they should have their guns taken away.

But the court must hold a hearing within seven days of the warrant to determine if the person can get their guns back.

Representative Thigpen said he introduced this bill, keeping mental health issues in mind. He said groups have been working with police in Richland county to provide training when dealing with individuals who may have mental health issues and provide legislation to make society safer.

“We also wanted to have individuals that may be a threat, have those persons be less of the threat to society,” said Thigpen. “Before they had no means of combating that.”

Thigpen said he wants responsible gun ownership and common-sense legislation. He also wants the discussion of mental health to be addressed.

Peter Zalka is the board chairman for Arm in Arm which is a group aimed at stopping gun violence and promoting responsible gun ownership.

Zalka says this bi-partisan approach is needed for sensible gun control.

"It separates an individual who’s in crisis or in a dangerous situation from their firearms, separating them temporarily,” says Zalka. “The safe guard to the person's due process and their second amendment rights is that this ERPO process has to go through the courts."

Right now, there is not a current law that addresses the exact same issues that the pre-filed bill does.

If this passes, South Carolina will join a number of states that have enacted laws authorizing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders.

For a full description of the bill, click here.

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