The Problem With “Red Flag” Laws
Following the tragedy in Parkland last year, the National Review’s David French proposed “a gun-control measure conservatives should consider.” The gun control measure was “gun-violence restraining orders” (GVROs), which he argued was a third-way solution that avoided the kind of “collective punishment” enforcing gun control on the entire population after a tragedy would.
As French explains it, “broadly speaking they permit a spouse, parent, sibling, or person living with a troubled individual to petition a court for an order enabling law enforcement to temporarily take that individual’s guns right away.”
GVROs are also known as “red flag laws,” and are again being floated as a “common sense” gun control measure in the wake of recent tragedies. President Donald Trump endorsed the idea recently, and Sen. Lindsey Graham did months ago.
Right off the bat it must be emphasized just how pointless such laws would be in attempting to prevent mass shootings. After all, the guns are taken away temporarily. Is pushing a mass shooting back a week really much of an achievement? Such laws would make sense as a measure to prevent resolvable crisis – like a person at risk of suicide who needs immediate help – but I can’t see what else. French cites Parkland shooter Nickolas Cruz as someone who could’ve been stopped by such a law – but we already know that the FBI had been tipped off to him and did nothing.
Furthermore, we can already see how such laws are abused and poorly enforced. We can observe from how the Veterans Administration “red flags” certain veterans to see how such a policy would be disastrous nationally. As Michelle Malkin pointed out:
I first reported on the VA’s secretive database on “disgruntled” and “disruptive” vets five years ago. Under the VA policy on “patient record flags,” federal bureaucrats can classify vets as “threats” based on assessments of their “difficult,” “annoying” and “noncompliant” behavior. The VA manual says the flags “are used to alert Veterans Health Administration medical staff and employees of patients whose behavior and characteristics may pose a threat either to their safety, the safety of other patients, or compromise the delivery of quality health care.”
In 2013, the VA inspector general concluded that the bureaucracy “does not have a comprehensive definition of what constitutes disruptive behavior.” In January 2018, a VA Office of Inspector General report found that large numbers of flagged veterans were being left in the dark about being placed on dangerous patient lists — with no recourse to remove phony flags or appeal in any meaningful way.
Despite rules requiring the “Disruptive Behavior Committee” to notify flagged patients of their status and informing them of their right to amend their reports, the OIG found no evidence in 49% of electronic health records that the panels had provided such notice and disclosure.
In 25% of medical records reviewed, the OIG “found no evidence that patients were informed they had the right to request to amend or appeal” special orders restricting care of flagged patients.
Furthermore, even though liberals love to ignore the Second Amendment, it isn’t the only Amendment at risk of being violated here. As Raheem Williams notes at the Foundation for Economic Education:
The 5th & 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution mandate that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Although this should be clear to anyone with a basic comprehension of English, it’s often ignored by judges and politicians. Depriving people of a constitutional right before a trial and without charges tramples on the notion of innocent until proven guilty and severely erodes the core values of justice.
Proponents of red flag laws argue due process is respected by allowing the deprived to appeal to the courts to reinstate their rights. However, this backward process would imply that the Second Amendment is a privilege, not a right.
And don’t forget the agendas of the politicians who will be designing these laws are. What’s considered a “red flag” to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is much different than a red flag to a sane person.
Kudos to many conservatives for actually proposing an attempt at a solution to gun violence aside from the policy-free calls to “do something” we hear so often from progressives – but this isn’t it.