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
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
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
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.