The REAL “Red Flags”

To the Editor:

As predictably as night follows day, the cries erupted: “We have to do something about these guns!” “It’s time to enact Universal Background Checks!” “We need to BAN GUNS!”

Forget that no gun restriction written could/would have prevented any of the recent mass shootings. Forget that all legal gun sales are already required to go through a licensed dealer following a background check through NICS. Forget that when someone is killed by a knife attack, no one argues that it’s the fault of “easy access to knives”. Forget that when someone drives drunk and kills pedestrians we don’t demand the Prohibition of alcohol and a ban on cars. Forget that the violent actions of the criminal and the insane cannot be prevented by constraining the Constitutionally protected rights of peaceful and law-abiding citizens.

WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!

The newest “something” they want to do is enact national “Red Flag” laws. An unwarranted violation of American citizens’ 4th and 5th Amendment protections. Even our “conservative”, Republican Governor Scott has urged such a course. As has President Donald Trump, although he still claims that he will protect our 2nd Amendment rights.

The issue of these Red Flag laws is the wholesale disregard of due process. Where, if enacted as proposed, these laws would allow the surprise confiscation of a citizen’s legally owned property without even being given their right to a hearing, much less a conviction for any offense, and often these confiscations can happen on the word of [anonymous].

Once taken, the onus is no longer on the State to prove the individual unfit to possess guns, but on the citizen to prove to the State that he isn’t unfit (in effect, being required to prove a negative), while spending $1000’s in the effort to get his/her property returned.

This is anathema to our judicial system of “Innocent until proven guilty”.

No responsible gun owner would argue that those proven unfit by reason of violent actions and/or the use of a gun in the commitment of a crime should be allowed to keep their weapons, only that confiscation should only occur after conviction.

These laws are not only ineffective, they’re also completely redundant. We already have laws on the books that would address the issue of imminently violent individuals.

Most states allow for the involuntary temporary commitment of at risk individuals for up to 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation. These “72 hour holds” are issued by a judge after a petition submitted by police, mental health worker or immediate family member has been reviewed and found sufficient grounds for the action. This course protects the right to due process and allows for the individual to contest the alleged acts while also removing him/her from any possibility of access to guns, or any other potential weapon, without depriving them of their legally owned property.

I submit that a 3 day “hold” would be much less invasive than kicking someone’s door down in a dawn raid. And would be safer for the individual, the police, and any potential victims.

If this person is so unhinged as to present a danger of imminent harm to himself or others, wouldn’t such a raid be more likely to act as a “trigger” that would send him off on a rampage of revenge against those he believes called in on him and caused his property to be taken? And, he’d still have access to weapons. Maybe not guns (unless he had some hidden away that no one knows about. Quite likely if he is paranoid), but certainly knives, hammers, even a vehicle could be used as a weapon. And often have been.

Legal gun owners, particularly those of us who hold Concealed Carry permits are statistically less likely to engage in violent crime than even police officers. Yet we are expected to give up our rights because of the potential actions of criminals. This is straight out of Minority Report.

You cannot prevent the violent acts of the criminal or the insane by violating the rights of peaceable citizens. The real “Red Flag” is that so many of our elected representatives are willing, even eager, to violate those rights despite their oaths of office to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution and the rights of the citizen.

Lawrence Black

Danville, Vermont

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