When I was in college, one of best friends shot and killed herself. In the aftermath, I was told she showed signs of depression. I wish that there had been an incident-free and foolproof way to have removed her access to firearms at the time. I’d probably still have a friend, her family would still have a daughter and sister and most importantly, her son would still have his mother.
Even though people went to help that evening, it was too late. It was highly probable that no one knew she had a gun. I didn’t know she did. Guns weren’t something we discussed. In fact, at that time, firearms—having one, not having one—never crossed my mind.
All of us who loved her will never stop wondering if there was something we could have done to prevent it. It is impossible to say whether any type of forced confiscation would have stopped my friend from killing herself.
Though I don’t think the solution is to strip gun rights away from those with depression or mental illness forever, I know I’m not alone when I say that a temporary hold on some people’s access to firearms may be called for.
The big question is—how do we keep guns out of these people’s hands?
The support for Red Flag Laws is gaining steam quickly across party lines.
What are Red Flag Laws?
A Red Flag law, also called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO,) gives law enforcement the ability to confiscate someone’s legally owned firearm without due process. Though red flag laws vary by state, a family member, friend, teacher or law enforcement officer can appeal to a judge based on the actions, conversations or posts of a person that may be a danger to themselves or others, to have their firearms temporarily removed from their home by law enforcement.
What is Due Process?
“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
— Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Due Process Clauses are written in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Due Process ensures the protection of each U.S. citizen’s fundamental right to life, liberty and property. Due Process is in place to make sure those rights are not violated. There is a legal process that should be followed before one’s rights are removed.
Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have enacted Red Flag laws.
Red Flag Law States
- District of Columbia
- Hawaii(effective Jan. 1, 2020)
- Nevada(effective Jan. 1, 2020)
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Do Red Flag Laws Work?
There is no evidence to prove (or disprove) Red Flag laws prevent mass shootings. Enacted in 1999, Connecticut’s Red Flag law couldn’t stop an insane person from shooting 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook elementary school.
Research conducted from 1996 to 2013 found the Red Flag law in Connecticut “averted suicide for every ten to eleven gun seizure cases.” (Law and Contemporary Problems) Another report released in 2016, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found suicide rates in Indiana were reduced by 7.5% over 10 years after enacting Red Flag confiscation laws. A Duke University psychiatry professor who worked on the research, Jeffrey Swanson, says, “It shows the law is being applied not willy-nilly, but to a group that is really at a high risk of dying.”
There are no studies or research showing Red Flag laws have stopped a mass shooting—which is what lawmakers intend.
Is There a Federal Red Flag Law?
There is currently no federal Red Flag law, however, Senator Lindsey Graham, along with Senator Richard Blumenthal will be introducing a bipartisan bill encouraging states to enact Red Flag Laws. The bill will create a grant program to help states that enact Red Flag law.
Why are Red Flag Laws Problematic?
Many claim Red Flag laws are unconstitutional because they don’t follow due process.
Red Flag law supporters, including President Trump, say there won’t be confiscation without due process involved. In a statement earlier this week, the President said, “We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for red flag laws…” (On August 7, President Trump also voiced support for universal background checks, saying, “I’m all in favor…”)
However, there is proof that Red Flag confiscations have occurred without due process, sometimes ending in tragedy. At 5:17 a.m., on November 5, 2018, police arrived at the home of Gary Willis in Ferndale, Maryland to confiscate the man’s firearms. Willis answered the door with a gun in his hand. Realizing it was the police, he put the gun down. When the police explained why they had come, Willis reportedly “became irate” (understandably) and picked his gun back up. There was a struggle and the gun was fired—it is unclear how or who pulled the trigger. Either way, the police shot and killed Willis.
It’s unclear why there was an emergency order put against Willis, arranged only one day before the tragedy. According to The New American: “Family members told Capital Gazette reporters that a distant relative had requested the ERPO the day before, due to an ‘incident’ that occurred at his residence…His niece, Michele Willis, said ‘I’m just dumbfounded right now. My uncle wouldn’t hurt anybody.’”
Allowing no-knock raids on unsuspecting, law-abiding Americans, puts police and innocents in extreme danger.
BREAKING: Would Red Flag Laws Have Prevented the El Paso, Texas Walmart Shooting?
Just in—it is being reported that the mother of the shooter who open fired at a busy Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing over 22 people, called law enforcement about her son owning a firearm. Police confirm a public safety officer (not a police officer) took the call and twice asked the shooter’s mother if she was worried if her son was suicidal or a threat to public safety. The mother assured the public safety officer that wasn’t the case. Her only issue was the legality of him, a 21-year old, owning the “AK-type firearm.”
If Texas had a Red Flag law, the phone call above would not have led to an emergency protective order and the shooter would still have committed the senseless act.
“The loss of liberty gives folks the false impression that the government is doing something — anything — to keep us safe. That impression is a false one because in fact it is making us less safe, since a government intent on monitoring our every move and communication loses sight of the moves and communications of the bad guys. As well, liberty lost is rarely returned. The Patriot Act, which permits federal agents to bypass the courts and issue their own search warrants, has had three sunsets since 2001, only to be re-enacted just prior to the onset of each — and re-enacted in a more oppressive version, giving the government more power to interfere with liberty, and for a longer period of time each time.
I have often argued that it is in times of fear — whether generated by outside forces or by the government itself — when we need to be most vigilant about protecting our liberties. I make this argument because when people are afraid, it is human nature for them to accept curtailment of their liberties — whether it be speech or travel or privacy or due process — if they become convinced that the curtailment will keep them safe. But these liberties are natural rights, integral to all rational people and not subject to the government’s whim.”
Folks, it is time to be hyper-vigilant about what liberties are being threatened. Taking away even only one opens the door to take away another and another and another…