Fayetteville, AR – -(AmmoLand.com)- Red flag laws, laws that allow the removal of guns from persons who have been declared by a court to be a danger to self or others, are the latest in the efforts of gun control advocates to reduce the number of firearms in private hands. The NRA has expressed some approval, depending on the exact nature of the laws, drawing the ire of gun rights supporters.
But hold on a minute you say. The calls for these laws have been a response to the fact that the Parkland shooter gave multiple signs that he was building up to a big crime, and he was not the only mass shooter to do that. The problem, of course, is that we do not have a Department of Pre-crimes—this bit of science fiction is unlikely to become a reality any time soon, and the idea of punishing people before they commit crimes is difficult to square with a free society in any case.
Difficult, but not impossible, however. After all, we have a court system that exists to address the more intractable conflicts, and in principle, they provide a fair resolution. But the caveat here is that the process itself must be balanced.
The concern here is that the system could be [or will be] abused. A false accusation can be the civil tort of defamation, or it can be a crime, depending on the context. In some divorce cases, they’re standard procedure. If, by contrast, anyone making a bogus charge of terroristic acts—called swatting, since the SWAT team may be sent to the scene—has committed a felony. Incidents of this are on the rise in New Jersey, for example, and a call to the Wichita, Kansas police claiming that a hostage situation was in progress resulted in an innocent person being killed. Cases like this illustrate the fact that gun owners are not paranoid to ask for details about proposed red flag laws.
What is going on here is typical of the proposals of gun control advocates, a scheme that sounds good to the uninitiated and that asks us to sign a blank check. I agree with them that if someone is making threats of violence or is abusing a domestic partner or similar, that person should not have guns, but I don’t go along with efforts to make the denial of gun rights a simple matter of filing a report with the police. Due process is as valuable a right as gun ownership or carry.
An acceptable red flag law would emphasize the presumption of innocence. The history of civil forfeiture cases reminds us that the government has taken property away from people who were doing nothing wrong and who are never convicted of any crime, and they often spend years trying to get that property back with the burden of proof being on them, not on the government. And false accusations should be treated as an attempt to deny a person’s civil rights and prosecuted.
But the goal of many gun control advocates is not to promote safety. It is instead an effort to remove as many guns from private hands as possible. This leaves reasonable people having to work things out for ourselves.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.