BELLEVUE, WA â€“ The Washington State House Judiciary Committee cast its votes today to strip Washington gun owners of the right to a trial by jury. Since at least 1959, Washington citizens have had the right to a jury trial with a standard of â€œclear, cogent, and convincing evidenceâ€ before losing their right to bear arms due to being involuntarily committed for an alleged mental health illness.
House Bill 3095, sponsored by Committee Chairwoman Rep. Pat Lantz (D-26), effectively removes these protections by stripping citizens of their right to bear arms, perhaps permanently, after being involuntarily committed for a mere 14 days. In these â€œprobable causeâ€ hearings there is no jury, no elected judge, and the standard of guilt is a mere preponderance of the evidence.
â€œSetting aside the question of whether or not people should lose their right to bear arms after being involuntarily committed, it is inexcusable to deprive Washingtonians of the fundamental right to a jury trial and a reasonable standard of guilt,â€ noted CCRKBA Executive Director Mark A. Taff. â€œWhat other fundamental rights are our legislators willing to remove without the benefit of a jury trial?â€
Taff noted that alleged armed robbers and child molesters have a fundamental right to a unanimous verdict by a jury of their peers with the highest possible standard, â€œbeyond a reasonable doubtâ€. Even in civil cases, the Washington Constitution dictates that â€œright of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.â€
â€œWe are continuing to work with the legislature to amend this unconstitutional bill to protect two of the most highly regarded rights of Washingtonians: the right to bear arms and the right to a jury,â€ Taff stated. â€œWhile some committee members have made a terrible error by voting to strip gun owners of the right to a jury, there is still time for them to correct their error and amend this bill to respect our fundamental civil liberties.â€
â€œAll Washingtonians should contact their legislators to remind them we cherish our civil liberties,â€ Taff urged.
Voting to strip the right to a jury include Representatives Lantz, Goodman, Flannigan, Kirby, Moeller, Pedersen, & Williams. Voting to respect the right to a jury include Representatives Rodne, Warnick, Ahern, and Ross.
Representative Warnick deserves special credit for her staunch support of basic civil liberties. â€œWe hope Rep. Warnickâ€™s example will encourage the legislature to amend this bill to respect the right to a jury trial, so that all legislators can support this bill in good faith,â€ concluded Taff.