What are red flag laws? In short, red flag laws are further unconstitutional means of circumventing the Second Amendment. Connecticut was the first to enact a red flag law, in 1999, following a rampage shooting at the Connecticut Lottery. However, California is the first to enact a version of the law, in 2014, which is the model for laws in multiple states. As a result, family members and law enforcement officials can petition courts to take weapons from persons they see as a threat. For this reason, the red flag law debate is a hot-button topic.
The Red Flag Law Debate
If you have ever seen the movie Minority Report, red flag laws, also called “Extreme Risk Laws,” look a little something like that. The premise is that family members and law enforcement try to predict whether or not an individual is a threat. If the court agrees that they are a threat, their firearms are temporarily removed. But the potential for the removal to be longer-lasting or permanent is real.
To clarify, it is predictive profiling based on things that the individual has said or posted to social media, as well as more extreme indicators. Other indicators include patterns or recent threats and acts of violence, dangerous past behavior with guns, substance abuse, and recent firearms or ammunition acquisition.
Although social media is not typically listed as a red flag within legislation, after every shooting the first thing discussed is the shooter’s social media. Also, in a recent CNN article, it suggests students watch for “leaking” behavior, and cites a social media post:
“A few days before the November 30 school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, the 15-year-old suspect posted a photo of a gun on Instagram with the caption: “Just got my new beauty today. SIG SAUER 9mm,” according to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald.”
Of course, the problem with this is immediately evident. When a social media post like the above is coupled with the “recent firearms or ammunition acquisition” indicator—red flag. Or you are out with the friends celebrating and post a “substance abuse” indicator photo—red flag.
The potential for abuse is evident and dangerous to our civil liberties. Under red flag laws, a post that an anti-gun family member doesn’t like can result in a lifetime of profiling. As a result, your Second Amendment can be suspended, with the potential for permanence.
Real Talk Discussion
We recently posted a discussion about red flag laws to Facebook, to get a feel for what readers think. As mentioned, the potential for abuse of red flag laws is clear. Maybe an ex-spouse or anti-gun family member. Or maybe you had a spat with a family member, and they do it out of spite. Whatever the case, the risk is real and many voice that concern in our red flag law debate.
As one reader states, “Far too subject to abuse, from [ex-spouses]/girlfriends, enemies, and a-holes.
“Besides that, in the past 3 or 4 years there have been far too many examples where police or school administrators have been given serious warnings and info about a dangerous person and they utterly failed to do anything anyway, and then a school shooting happened. So, they’re not actually serious about stopping shootings.
“Seems like they’d only be used to target and intimidate 2A proponents.”
However, the debate is not so cut and dried.
As another reader points out, “[It’s] a damned if you do, damned [if] you don’t issue.
“Could it save lives? Yes, if used correctly.
“Would it be abused/misused? Definitely.
“Does it go against our legal rights of needing to be found guilty of [a] crime before being punished[?] Yes, 100%.
“So, I’d have to say NO to red flag laws.”
The discussion leans towards the negatives of red flag laws, with another reader simply stating, “Too easy to be abused.”
One reader even points out the potential hazard of such laws, “I can almost [guarantee] a lot of people would be injured and killed. And I’m not only referring to gun owners but also the people dispatched to disarm them. MANY of them will not go down quietly. It’s dangerous.”
However, not all agree, as one reader states, “Absolutely needed!”
Case in Point
Although the potential for abuse is there, it seems as though the system has fail-safes in place. In one such case, an article in the Sacramento Bee details a Colorado woman facing charges for perjury. For the purpose of filing a red flag petition on an officer who shot her son as he charged the officer with a knife, Susan Holmes claimed that the officer was the father of her son.
The Sacramento Bee article states, “Holmes filed a court petition for an extreme risk protection order Jan. 9 against Colorado State University Police officer Philip Morris, McClatchy News previously reported.”
According to a 9News report, “The law allows immediate family members, household members or law enforcement officers to file a petition requesting for someone’s guns to be seized on that basis that they’re a danger to themselves or others. If a judge agrees, that person’s guns may be taken away for a year.
“Holmes and Morris do not have a child together, but she checked the box on the state petition that asked if they have a child in common – her son, 19-year-old Jeremy Holmes.”
Whether or not these fail-safes will work in every instance remains to be seen. So, there is still reason for concern of abuse, especially in the case of actual family. However, it is mildly reassuring that there are fail-safes to prevent abuse from people outside your family.
Are You in a Red Flag Law State?
At the time of this writing there are 20 states with red flag laws in place:
- California (2016)
- Colorado (2019)
- Connecticut (1999)
- Delaware (2018)
- Florida (2018)
- Hawaii (2019)
- Illinois (2019)
- Indiana (2005)
- Maryland (2018)
- Massachusetts (2018)
- Nevada (2019)
- New Jersey (2019)
- New York (2019)
- Oregon (2018)
- Rhode Island (2018)
- Vermont (2018)
- Washington (2016)
- Washington, D.C. (2019)
- New Mexico (2020)
- Virginia (2020)
Fortunately, there are still states that have rejected such laws. However, anti-gun lobbyists are hard at work to change that. Make no mistake, red flag laws pose a risk on two fronts—the First and Second Amendments. And lobbyists are eager to get rid of both. Wherever you stand on the red flag law debate, you should be concerned about the implications for all rights.
As one reader pointed out in our Facebook discussion, “I’m good enough to defend the country for years but if I say one thing wrong with red flag laws, I could forever lose my ability to defend myself. That’s the truth of these laws they take away not just 2nd amendment rights they take away your 1st amendment rights as well.”
Whether or not you are politically active, if you care about your rights, contact your congressman and let them know how you feel. No matter how they paint this, this is nothing more than a workaround to further erode our Second Amendment. And whatever you do, when you vote, make sure you know who you are voting for and where they stand.
Remember, if you don’t voice your opinion to your representative, you may be subject to the whims of people like this:
“Really SUCKS to pretend to be a big tough guy but knowing in your heart you will CERTAINLY qualify for a Red Flag huh?
“Scared little boy with a toy he shouldn’t have… Poor baby!
“Look at all these scared rednecks who KNOW they would get ‘flagged’!