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Washington’s red-flag law allows authorities to seize neo-Nazi’s guns

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SEATTLE -- In a first-of-its-kind case for King County, authorities say police seized military-style weapons from a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi.

According to court documents, authorities believe Kaleb Cole is a state leader of a small but dangerous extremist group. Still, he has not been charged with a crime or making a specific threat.

A controversial law allowed authorities to confiscate his guns anyway. While some decry the Extreme Risk Protection Order, citing concerns of due process, the state law passed through a 2016 ballot initiative with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

It's meant to remove guns from people who pose a significant danger of hurting themselves or someone else. Authorities say Cole met that threshold and took nine guns from him last month, including five military-style weapons.

According to court documents, Cole is a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who has made threats to Jews, the LGBTQ community and other minority groups. They say he organized and recruited at "hate camps" as the state leader of a white supremacy group. In videos, members pledged to start a race war - and soon - and he trained on military-style weapons.

"He was planning for a race war and he was training other people to help him fight this race war with his weapons," said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. "That was enough to convince me and to convince the judge that we ought to disarm this young man until we know what's going on."

Along with Washington, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws on the books.

In the state, Satterberg said two-thirds of the county's cases last year involved family members or friends worried about a loved one's suicidal ideations.

"I feel lucky that we have this ability to respond before something happens and so often we do it in aid of a family concerned about a loved one," Satterberg said. "The family doesn't know how to remove weapons without escalating things. We have a team that can do that."

Under an Extreme Risk Protection Order, people connected to the person or authorities can petition to remove guns for up to a year. Under due process, that person then has the chance to fight the order in front of a judge.

In Cole's case, Satterberg said he never showed up for his hearing.

Satterberg said it's the first time law enforcement has petitioned to remove someone's guns without the concern of a loved one. However, he said he's glad this law is in place for what he calls an extreme case.

Since the Extreme Risk Protection Order is fairly new, King County recognizes that a lot of people are not aware that it's an option when a loved one presents significant danger to themselves or others. To learn more, click here.

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