The Problem with Red-Flag Laws

by Tommy Grant
red flag laws gun violence restraining order

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This past weekend our nation’s Vice President Kamala Harris visited the site of one of our nation’s worst school shootings to use it and some of the victims’ family members as political props to further the White House’s goal of disarming Americans. The vehicle to achieve one more part of this disarmament effort was pitched in the guise of red-flag laws, on the surface and without any real intellectual or constitutional probing, seemingly a good idea.

The basic premise is this: Let’s take guns out of the hands of crazy people who might randomly shoot up schools, malls, concerts and anywhere people congregate before they do it and try to save the unnecessary loss of innocent lives.

Not many people would argue against preventing gun violence and saving innocent lives. At least I hope not. It is a goal every society, and individual, should wish to see realized.

But how that safety is achieved is where the arguments begin. Depending on where a person falls on the issue, often divided along political lines, makes for two—really many—divergent paths to get to the same basic goal: reducing crime, protecting innocent life and securing a sense of safety in our communities.

More specifically, where red-flag laws are concerned, the goal is to keep firearms out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals who pose a threat to themselves and more significantly, others. it, too, is something most people, pro-2A as well as anti-gunners, can agree. The devil, as always, is in the details—and in the definitions and manner in which the laws are carried out.

The White House’s “fact sheet” defined red flag laws as laws “that allows a family member or law enforcement to seek a court order to temporarily take away access to guns if they feel a gun owner may harm themselves or others.” But what exactly is temporary? Two weeks? A month? A year? Until a judge or local official decides? And what is the process by which a person gets their rights restored? Do they have to hire an expensive attorney and petition a court, or are they to assume they will simply await a good judge’s ability to remember that time is up or the case needs to be revisited to restore them?

Guns can often be removed from an individual and their rights denied without any due process or hearing under red flag laws, which is a huge concern. Because of this, red-flag laws can be easily weaponized by anyone wanting to see someone disarmed i.e., a divorce dispute, a disagreement between neighbors, somebody upset at being fired from work, and many other situations.

And what and who exactly determines what level of behavior should be met before firearms are removed from a person? Somebody who makes threats in person and online, walks around talking to the voices in their head and exhibits high levels of mental illness are what most people think about when they think about red-flag laws. But what about the person who loses a loved one or is dealing with financial issues so is a little depressed? Should they have their guns taken away? Because they certainly can under the way these laws are being written.

In fact, just last week, Republicans placed a rider in the budget bill that restored the rights of veterans who had had their right to possess firearms removed because they needed help managing their finances. Democrats were angered that these rights were being restored.

What about gun rights being taken away from individuals who have a different political leaning than someone in power? Red-flag laws could even be used for such nefarious purposes.

Don’t think so? A Louisiana Illuminator article and others are noting how under the pretext of what took place Jan. 6 and even using President Trump’s political rhetoric on the campaign trail more states are banning firearms at polling places. Virtually all, if not every single one of these laws are being driven and passed by Democrats, despite laws that protect poll workers from harassment and intimidation already being in place in most states. Conversely, many Republicans are vehemently opposing them. So, the argument ultimately breaks down along party lines and any true debate over what works and what doesn’t immediately dissolves. It’s simply, as we used to joke using hillbilly vernacular, “yer either fir us or agin us.” But this is what the current manner of discourse in our political institutions has brought us to.

Interestingly, most polling places are also in schools, by one estimate as many as 60%, which would mean firearms are already banned from those polling places, so the law is largely redundant.

These laws are undoubtedly aimed not at criminals who are the ones who commit crimes, but at citizens legally carrying firearms for self-defense.

And while red-flag laws are ostensibly focused on preventing people with mental illness from possessing firearms and are almost universally pushed by Democrats, some recent articles have attacked Republicans for “focusing on mental illness” in the wake of mass shootings, saying, “blaming mental illness for gun violence is counterproductive and cruel.”

“The primary misconception that exists among many members of the public is that gun violence, particularly mass shootings, results primarily from mental illness, and in fact that’s not true,” Dr Paul Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, told The Guardian.

“This widespread belief has ‘diverted attention from ways of making it harder for people to get guns,’ he said, and instead focused attention on mental health interventions unlikely to prevent much violence,” the article continued unmasking the real goal of Ivy League liberals.

But the fact remains, anybody who indiscriminately shoots people because of some perceived slight from society or anger at the world, is not in their right mind. So, even liberals can’t agree on the issue, depending on who they are talking to.

Therein lies the argument and the short comings of today’s red-flag efforts. Keeping guns out of the hands of people who would do harm to others is a noble goal, but when it is being pushed by a single political party bent on simply disarming and weakening the country at any cost, it is a policy that simply can’t be trusted and one that everyone who cares about all of their rights should be very concerned about.

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