By Dan Gifford
Political pressure is building for federal laws to empower police
seizure of personal firearms as an alleged public safety measure.
Those laws allowing confiscation are called Red flag laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs). Under the federal red flag proposals being made, police could legally confiscate an individual’s firearms if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others. What deems a person to be a threat? A baseless claim from an angry spouse will do. So will an accusation by a former friend or fellow worker. There would be no hearing before a judge and, given court backlogs and normal bureaucratic foot dragging, it could be months or even years of ruinous legal expense before a gun owner could appear in court to win back his Second Amendment rights. That means such laws would operate in complete violation of constitutional due process.
It's hardly news that Congressional Democrats have put gun control at the top of their legislative agenda. But don't think for a moment that red flag laws are in the Overton Window of items worthy of public discussion because of Democrats alone. An unknown number of Republicans would hold hands with the donks in order to show they are not stupid party stooges for the evil National Rifle Association
Thirteen states currently have red flag laws and a dozen or more are crafting their own versions. But the federal level interest in red flag laws is not just a matter of a democrat Congressional majority.
There is a history of Red flag laws having bipartisan support. And when any piece of legislation has Democrats and Republicans holding hands in agreement, laws get passed no matter what was said on the campaign trail.
A meaningful number of Republican politicians can be expected to renege on their pro gun rights statements once the legislative wheeling and dealing starts and they are shamed to "do something" about gun violence. Several come to mind who are likely to vote for red flag laws.
Lindsay Graham: The South Carolina senator already introduced a red flag bill earlier this year. With the 116th Congress right around the corner, Graham will likely reach across the aisle with Democrat colleagues to move red flag legislation forward. Graham has opined that red flag legislation is the “place where we begin a long-overdue discussion about firearms and mental health. But we must start.”
Marco Rubio: Following the Parkland shootings, Rubio joined the gun control chorus by sponsoring a red flag bill along with Democrat
Senators Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, & Jack Reed. Rubio has even flirted with the idea of regulations on magazine clips, raising the minimum age to buy certain firearms like AR-15s, and tweaking the current background check system.
Mitt Romney: The incoming Utah senator has an anti-gun record as
governor of Massachusetts. As governor, Romney signed an assault weapons ban into law in 2004. In political fashion, Romney obscured his anti-gun act by turning to pro-Second Amendment platitudes during both of his presidential runs in 2008 and 2012. In a 2007 statement, Romney expressed that he does not “support any new gun laws including any new ban on semi-automatic firearms.” Nevertheless, the fallout from the recent Parkland shooting has made Romney reconsider the validity of enhanced background checks.
Rick Scott: Former governor of Florida and Florida’s new senator, Rick Scott, poses an interesting threat to gun rights. Despite his ostensibly pro-gun rhetoric, Scott signed SB 7026, Florida’s most expansive gun control measure in recent history. Pressured by the outrage over the Parkland School shooting, Scott’s SB 7026 contains red flag provisions, raises the age to buy a firearm to 21, and imposes a three-day waiting period for all firearms purchases.
It’s only a matter of time before legislation is introduced in either
chamber of Congress now that the Trump administration has endorsed red flag laws.
Trump Administration: Even the executive branch is joining in on the red flag craze. The Trump Administration’s Commission on School Safety recently released a report recommending red flag laws as a means to “address school safety and violence.” It’s only a matter of time before legislation is introduced in either chamber of Congress now that the Trump administration has endorsed red flag laws.
Even Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, kowtowed to anti-gun pressure. On April 24, 2018, Hogan signed a series of gun bills, one which included a red flag law. In October, the first month Maryland’s red flag law went into effect, there were 114 requests to confiscate individuals’ firearms.
Maryland’s red flag law has not been without its fair share of
controversy. At 5 am on Monday, November 5, two police officers came knocking on 61-year-old Gary Willis’ door to serve him a court order mandating that he turn over his guns. What seemed like a typical court order quickly turned deadly as one of the cops shot and killed Willis in a struggle that ensued. Quick to defend one of his own, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare defended the cops’ action by callously claiming they “did the best they could with the situation they had.”
Anti-Gun Ideology is Growing
The tragic incident in Maryland is an ominous sign of what is to come should red flag laws gain more traction.
When society’s ideological compass is off, government transgressions can come at any time. The passage of red flag laws could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Whether or not Republicans will support congressional iterations of red flag laws is anyone’s guess. The bigger problem at hand is an
ideological one. When society’s ideological compass is off, government transgressions can come at any time. The passage of red flag laws could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
More than a century’s worth of Progressivism has normalized universalist ideas such as economic controls, big spending, never-ending wars, and now, gun control. Misguided conservatives can debate ad infinitum on the forums or their talk radio shows about how certain Republicans “sell out” or betray their movement.
This, however, ignores how selling out—rubber stamping big government, embracing globalism, and embarking on nation-building—has been the standard operating procedure for many conservatives throughout the last century. Gun rights will be no different.
Gun owners will need to de-program and recognize that decentralization, not the winner-take-all electoral slugfest we see at the federal level every four years, is the best way to secure their gun rights.
Dan Gifford is a national Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated film producer and former reporter for CNN, The MacNeil Lehrer News Hour and ABC News.