• Time to Wave the Red Flag on Anti-Second Amendment ‘Red Flag’ Laws?

    Surge Summary: “Red Flag” laws are lately all the rage in the gun-control debate. But there are reasons to be concerned about them and to wonder if they even work.

    “Red Flag” laws. Suddenly the phrase is everywhere; a proposed partial solution, many insist, for America’s gun-violence problem. Most references are positive – but not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea.

    Take Thomas Massie and John R Lott Jr:

    “Red Flag” policies “haven’t reduced crimes, and the potential for misuse is great,” they warn. “[L]et’s do something that doesn’t make the problem worse.”

    With President Trump’s endorsement, Senate Republicans are moving forward with one law that they hope will help — a so-called “red-flag” law, advancing on the federal level what are known as “extreme risk protection orders.” Ohio’s governor also came out and endorsed such a law for his state after the attack.

    Depending upon the state, anyone from a family member, intimate partner, or ex to house- or apartment-mates or a police officer can file a complaint.

    For example, Colorado: anyone can ring up the police. Not even residency in the state is required (!). No hearing, just a statement of concern before a judge.

    Sounds kinda unacceptable if “due process” means anything any longer.

    President Trump has lately emphasized mental health but, surprisingly, red-flag laws are not specifically about that issue. Indeed, only one state law even mentions the term.

    Where’s that being reported?

    Red Flag laws are more about predicting the future …  figuring out who is going to do something dangerous or violent to himself or others.

    This is the realm of science fiction, and is the theme of the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. At least the Future Crime division in the movie had the help of psychics.

    Seventeen states have now adopted these laws, thirteen since 2018’s Parkland shooting.

    During the first nine months after Florida passed its red-flag law last year, judges granted more than 1,000 confiscation orders. In the three months after Maryland’s law went into effect on October 1, more than 300 people had their guns confiscated. In one case in Arundel County, a 61-year-old man died when the police stormed his home at 5 a.m. to take away his guns. Connecticut and Indiana, which have had these laws in effect for the longest time, have seen increasingly large numbers of confiscation orders.

    Little certainty is needed. Initial confiscations often require just a “reasonable suspicion,” which is little more than a guess or a hunch. When hearings occur weeks or a month later, about a third of these initial orders are overturned, but the actual error rate is undoubtedly much higher. These laws make no provisions to cover legal costs, and many people facing these charges do not retain counsel.

    Again, where are any of these statistics, details and concerns being ventilated in the rush to cram through these measures?

    Get this clear: These laws authorize the State to strip firearms from people who are arrested but not convicted of any actual crime. Even simple complaints without arrests have been enough. Once more, due process? Out the window. We can hope the courts will scuttle this provision – but precedent reminds us of the risk of relying on that solution.

    We’re talking about guess work really: courts often factor in variables such as gender and age in extrapolating misbehavior, predicting the chances that someone will commit an illegal act.

    “Predict”? “Chances”? Those kinds of terms ought to freeze the blood of liberty-loving patriots. Furthermore, the ever-present question of lawless discrimination is raised.

    It has always been possible to take away someone’s guns, but all 50 states have required testimony by a mental-health expert before a judge. Under red-flag laws, however, expert testimony will no longer be used. Gun-control advocates argue that it’s essential not even to alert the person that his guns may be taken away. Hence, the 5 a.m. police raids.

    When people really pose a clear danger to themselves or others, they should be confined to a mental-health facility. Simply denying them the legal right to buy a gun isn’t a serious remedy. If you think you are any more likely to stop criminals from getting guns than illegal drugs, you are mistaken. The same drug dealers sell both, and gangs are a major source of guns. Mentally ill individuals can also use other weapons, such as cars.

    Then there’s issue of damage to interpersonal “trust”: a person who might otherwise consult a friend, family member, etc. in a vulnerable moment and be dissuaded from a contemplated violent course of actions might opt to decline help, because of Red Flag policy concerns, and go forward with his/her destructive schemes instead.

    What about depressed folks? Sad folks? Will they avoid seeking needful intervention because they don’t want their names plunked on some “extreme risk protection order” roster?

    Liberals understand this point when it comes to something such as AIDS. They know that the threat of quarantining may discourage infected people from seeking medical help. But they seem unaware that the threat of early-morning raids and leaving people defenseless might engender similar problems.

    Remember: human nature …

    Finally, from a purely pragmatic perspective, evidence shows no benefits from red-flag measures. Data from 1970 through 2017 indicates these laws had no significant effect on violent crimes across the board, including murder, suicide, mass-public-shooting fatalities and the like. It looks like Red Flag laws don’t save lives.

    In an unexpected revelation, turns out the rest of the world has much higher murder rates from mass public shootings than does the U.S. —  yes, we’re talking major European countries such as France, Finland, Russia, and Switzerland. This despite many of these countries also having much stricter gun-control laws, including semi-automatic bans.

    Everyone wants to stop mass public shooters. But we haven’t previously punished people on the basis of little more than a hunch, without any specific guidelines in place. Stopping “future crimes” didn’t work in the movies, and it doesn’t work in real life.

    Image: photo credit: DeGust <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/55299332@N05/37806245061″>Rassemblement contre l’islamophobie et le racisme</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>


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