Aug. 21, 2001 – Sen. Emmett Hansen II says he is willing to let Gov. Charles W. Turnbull make certain changes in his get-tough-on-guns bill, which the governor vetoed earlier this month, in order to get the legislation signed into law.
Hansen was off island on vacation when he learned of Turnbull's veto on Aug. 13. At the time, the senator declared that the Legislature would override the veto. But he has since sought Turnbull's counsel on the issue.
On Monday, in a letter to the governor, Hansen said, "While I am of the opinion that the measures contained within the bill are exactly what are needed to stem the rash of gun violence and gun smuggling in the V.I., I am aware that you do not share the same sentiment."
Turnbull had objected to a section of the Gun Control Act of 2001 dealing with forfeiture of property on which illegal weapons are found, terming it "Draconian." He said in his veto message that if the language about forfeiture were changed, he would sign the legislation.
The disputed portion of the bill as enacted by the Legislature states that real property and means of transportation would be subject to forfeiture, with said action, in turn, subject to judicial review.
Real property could be seized if any illegal, unauthorized or unlicensed firearm or ammunition were found to have been "stored, concealed or housed with the knowledge, consent or privity of the owner(s), or where through the exercise of due diligence the owner(s) should have known" of its being there.
Authorities similarly could seize any "conveyances," including motor vehicles, aircraft and seagoing vessels "which are used, or are intended for use, to transport, or in any manner to facilitate the transportation, sale, receipt, possession, or concealment" of illegal, unauthorized or unlicensed firearms. However, common carriers would be exempted "unless it shall appear that the owner or other person in charge of such conveyance was a consenting party or privy to a violation of this chapter."
The bill further provides that if the attorney general determines that a property owner did not know of, nor should he or she have known of, the unlawful use of the property, the property should be returned "upon request" to the owner. The bill provides for a court hearing to determine the legality of forfeitures.
On Aug. 14, speaking on the "Opening Doors" talk show on WVWI Radio, the governor said, "I told Sen. Hansen I would sign the bill, but then I saw the section about forfeiting property where illegal weapons were found, and I couldn't sign that." Turnbull said nobody should lose their home because "some culprit has hidden one illegal bullet in it."
He added, "I was going to sign the bill, but when I saw that part, I had to veto it."
Hansen at the time expressed astonishment at Turnbull's action. "We will override the veto," he said then, "The bill has 12 sponsors; they'll be fighting one another to override it." He said he had worked for months with representatives of the various V.I. law agencies in drafting the bill and that it had received a "most thorough review."
Attorney General Iver Stridiron has publically expressed concern about the forfeiture language, agreeing with the governor that it needs more study.
Hansen said Monday that he would await "clarifying language" from the governor. However, he added, should such language not be forthcoming by the time the Legislature goes into full session again in late September, "I will be left with no choice but to move for an override of the vetoed legislation. I hope it does not come to that."


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