In the wake of El Paso and Dayton, we’re seeing the push again for so-called “Red Flag Laws”. For those of you who are unaware, these law purport to allow someone to make a complaint that someone else is a danger and should have his/her guns removed. If a judge agrees, then the police go remove the guns, and the owner must then prove (s)he is not a danger to get them returned. I have several problems with this.

  1. If a person is so dangerous, that it is in the community’s best interest that his/her guns are taken away, why is this person still allowed access to other dangerous implements – such as gasoline, lighters, knives, bats, automobiles? All of which have been used to kill more people than rifles? If a person is that dangerous, why are we not Baker Acting them and getting them held for 72 hours to determine if they are a danger to themselves or others? I would imagine because these red flag laws have much lower evidentiary requirements than an involuntary commitment. Which leads to my second point.

  2. Such laws are ripe for abuse, whether by people who are in a dispute, who hate guns, don’t like someone’s politics, or who want an unarmed victim. Many of the laws either passed or proposed have very broad categories of people who can make a complaint. The accused often have no chance to defend themselves before the cops show up at the door and seize their property – which has already led to one death in Maryland. The last time I looked at Florida’s statistics, almost all of the orders were overturned -which means people were deprived of their property and means of defense for no good reason.

  3. This also assumes that a person will receive his/her property back once the cops have seized it. Another part that’s ripe for abuse is what happens once the cops take the guns. There are all sorts of bureaucratic hurdles they can throw up to prevent them from returning a person’s property once the government has it – particularly if the government officials are anti-gun.

Proponents of this law are drawing out the Parkland shooter as an example, while ignoring the numerous times the government had ample evidence to take actions that would have made him a prohibited person, and unable to legally purchase a firearm. They will also point to people who are making “disturbing” comments. The problem with these laws, like most laws rushed after a dramatic and horrifying event, is that they are rarely applied to the kinds of people the laws purport to target. More often, the laws are used as broadly as possible (can anyone say PATRIOT Act?)