Red Flag Laws have gotten lots of press since last year. They are a controversial intersection of what is right and what is wrong in enforcing who should and should not have a gun and when they should and should not have access to guns.
Everyone should agree with the concept that a truly mentally disturbed individual should have limited or no access to guns. However, that immediately descends into a whole bunch of difficult to answer questions.
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Who gets to make the decision? Why should we believe someone that reports another person as being mentally unfit? What should the guidelines be? I mean, we have all had bad days, should something as simple as a single outburst be the lower threshold?
Of course, the intent behind Red Flag Laws is to get in front of gun violence, proponents citing that people likely to commit a violent offense often display dangerous behavior or mental instability prior to the act. The thinking then is if this behavior can be flagged by family members, friends, relations, or police, gun related violence could be prevented.
It’s not an easy subject to parse. The worst part of Red Flag Laws also known as ERPO’s or Extreme Risk Protection Orders is the potential abuse. That brings up the subject of Blackstone’s Ratio. A concept in criminal law that says, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
Unfortunately, it is very easy for one of those 10 people, to possibly have severe mental issues, go out, and kill others. Is it best then to protect the one “innocent”, if lives are at stake?
That is a very tough call indeed. The obvious answer is, we need more mental health services. Which we do not have currently. However, we need to focus on the individual, and not the gun. If it is not a gun, it is a knife, a car, or a baseball bat. There are many more weapons than just guns… why focus on guns?
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Therefore, I side with Blackstone’s Ratio. We should not deny any innocent people of their rights… because “MAYBE” someone ELSE will commit a crime.
Perhaps the solution to the Red Flag Law issue at hand is that we need more judges that are Conservative, Constitutionalists, and actually know how to “judge” a situation.
That puts the onus on the voter. A majority of judges are elected. Once they are elected, it is DAMN DIFFICULT to get rid of a bad judge. You can only recall a bad judge and that is just a horribly long process to see through to the end. That means that voters need to research state and local candidates up for election instead of randomly ticking a name just because “that judge has had a seat all this time.”
Currently, 15 states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — have ERPO laws on the books.
Colorado’s Red Flag gun law took effect Jan. 1 and fortunately, for one Colorado citizen, the voters in Lincoln County picked a sane judge. The judge denied the request, however the reason for the denial has not been made public.
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Lincoln County, Colorado, has a population of just over 5500 residents and sits an hour and a half East of Colorado Springs. It is considered a Second Amendment sanctuary, where residents have voted not to honor the Red Flag Law and the judge hearing this case, respected the voters’ wishes.
Four extreme risk protection orders have been filed since the 1st of the month in Colorado, three of them have been approved; two in Denver County and one in Larimer County.
The denial In this case, a woman in Limon, Colorado, reported to police that she was being verbally and physically threatened by a man with a handgun. The request was filed on January 6th.
The section of the request that was selected reads as follows, “There has been a recent act or credible threat of violence by the respondent against self or others, whether or not such violence or credible threat of violence involves a firearm.”
The detail provided by the woman states, “verbal and physical threats (example: grabbing and pushing me, not allowing me to leave the house, actions threatening with a handgun.)
Additionally she selected a section that states the respondent has abused controlled substances, stating, “Respondent has a problem with alcohol and marijuana”
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The split among citizens and gun owners on the concept of ERPO typically goes something like this. People against it, say it will be unfairly applied and can be abused by vindictive family and relations. People for Red Flag Laws, simply seem to look at it pragmatically, saying that crazy people should not have access to guns.
I personally feel as though the ones that are FOR Red Flag Laws, are the same type of people that usually state, “What do I care, I have nothing to hide”. i.e., they probably have never been on the receiving end of an unfair outcome, or subject to corruption. These are people that believe in unicorns and have their heads in the clouds, rarely interacting with reality.
As long as there is even a remote possibility of the laws being abused, I think they are a bad idea. They are an infringement on people’s rights and do not address the actual potential issue, mental health.
What is worse, an ERPO does not REMOVE the person from acting on their anger or mental delusions. They only remove one type of weapon from this person, while allowing them access to a plethora of other weapons. In addition, the act of forcibly removing personal property (what can often be a very expensive firearm or collection of firearms) may be exactly the final straw to set this person off.
More mental health funding, access to people that care and will listen, and long-term programs for the mentally ill are the only true solution to reduce violence.
About the Author:
DarkStar (obvious pseudonym) has been an active humanitarian for the past decade, running a charity dedicated to helping the mentally challenged overcome life obstacles.
DarkStar left the corporate digital world working for Google and Chicago Tribune to seek more philanthropic pursuits, after becoming tired of helping the “elites” become richer while people were suffering.
With a degree in Computer Engineering and a background in Physics, DarkStar created and patented an Artificial Intelligence to take the place of mental health professionals and services, to help the mentally ill navigate their daily life.
An avid inventor, DarkStar hopes someday to connect with a similarly minded Angel Investor to create a company that can expand to help many more people around the world.