Red Flag Laws, Again

Now The Wall Street Journal is beating the drum for red flag laws that would authorize seizure of weapons from anyone, and anyone associated with that one, that Government, or a Government-appointed/approved body deems a threat.

Consider one of the three cute anecdotes the WSJ cited via its drumbeat.

Police were tipped off by school officials that a 14-year-old boy had praised mass shootings. He used campus computers to search firearms and terms like “white power.” Taken to a psychiatrist, the student said he was joking.
The boy’s father owned a rifle and a pistol. A short-term red-flag order was obtained, and the two firearms were relinquished. After a hearing a one-year order was issued. [In all three anecdotes cited, the outcome was a “one-year order.”]

The WSJ right wondered whether

the father whose guns were handed over suggest[ed] that he was unable or unwilling to secure them from his 14-year-old son?

Then the Editors dismissed this trivial concern.  I ask, though, what happened to the father’s Second Amendment rights? I answer with dismay: they seem to have been trampled without a fare-thee-well. His firearms were taken for no better reason than that someone associated with him was deemed maybe a threat sometime in the future. The boy’s claim that he was joking seems to have been dismissed just as out of hand.

There are larger problems, though, than just a few carefully selected anecdotes.  What about false positives? Where will the wrongly accused—whether mistakenly or maliciously—go to get his reputation back?

What about false negatives? Now the true threat is both warned and angrified—and in the same household, perhaps, as the one who accused him.

With true due process, how can the system act quickly enough to forestall an imminent threat?

The WSJ‘s Editors closed their piece with—perhaps—a glimmer of understanding:

…red-flag laws are no panacea for mass shootings. But…if reasonably drafted, they appear to be a step forward: gun control for the dangerous and unstable.

But then they demonstrate their fatal misunderstanding.  Red flag laws cannot be reasonably drafted, not only for the reasons above but for the WSJ‘s rationalization of that step forward: the laws focus on the tools a dangerous and unstable person might use and not on the dangerous and unstable person.

No system is perfect, certainly, but no system should be put in place that threatens the liberty and fundamental rights of all of us because a tiny per centage of us are bent on mayhem, especially when that system is so badly flawed as the one proposed here.

The energy being pumped into this euphemism for an assault on our 2nd Amendment should be focused instead on finding ways to deal specifically with those tiny few dangerous and unstable persons.

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