Opinion by Dennis Petrocelli, MD
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- If you listen to the pundits, red flag laws are intended to separate potentially dangerous people from their guns before they cause harm. In theory, how could anyone oppose the idea? Don't you want to keep people safe? Think of the children!
The problems begin when these laws get written down. The seventeen law versions assorted states and the District of Columbia have are, in general, vague laws. After taking evidence, the judge has to decide whether or not the evidence presented makes the case that the person is likely to be dangerous with a firearm. How will the judge make that call? The laws don't provide any guidance as to what actions comport with a likelihood of future violence. Although some cases might be straightforward, such as when someone makes a clear threat to cause harm (in which case, why not charge them criminally and lock them up rather than just their guns!), I suspect many more cases will be much more difficult to judge fairly.
Here's the problem in a nutshell: mental health people, like myself, have struggled since the dawn of our profession to help courts determine whether or not someone is likely to cause harm. We even struggle with determining whether or not someone would commit a second violent act after receiving treatment following the first. It is simply not as easy as it sounds: people change, their life circumstances change, their condition – if they have one – wax and wane, etc. All of our methods of risk assessment have considerable limitations, they are not Magic 8 Balls!
Yes, red flag laws are unconstitutional. Yes, they violate one or another cornerstone of our justice system. But as the title of this post suggests, I have four very specific additional reasons to oppose red flag laws.
- Elizabeth Warren
- Joe Biden
- Amy Klobuchar
- Andrew Yang [update Yang has dropped out of the presidential race]
There are now four people who are ready to fill the vacuum of judgment created by red flag laws and poison the minds of judges across the country with lies about how dangerous weapons in general civilian use are, and how dangerous their owners could be.
Not one, not two, but four democratic candidates for president sounded off in the last few months about the most tyrannical, anti-gun-owner nonsense we've had to endure since Beto had his “hell yes” moment, and not a single one of them said anything remotely rational. Here's a sampling:
- Yang: “We need to know who you are, what you’re doing, and why you have this arsenal.”
- Klobuchar: “We can (enact gun control) without Congress. And then we can introduce sweeping legislation.” (Who is this we?!?!?)
I'd quote Biden, but his surrender-or-register-as-an-NFA item proposal was just too crazy to print.
Finally, in an effort to unseat Mr. O'Rourke as the “AR-15 Salesperson of the Month,” Warren waded in with a federal limit on purchases to “[keep] people from bulking up in the middle of a crisis.”
Now, I'll concede that it's best to buy in advance and train and be prepared before the crisis, but I don't think that's what she meant, because she went on to imply that a gun purchase “serves as a flag – look at some of these folks who've gone out and bought a whole lot of guns…” The vast majority of gun owners are among some of the most law-abiding citizens there are, but you would never know that after listening to their war on gun owners.
This brings us back to red flag laws. The concept may be pure and hopeful, but the devil is always in the details. There are a growing and increasingly vocal group that have made it clear that the very act of purchasing a gun is suspect, making the purchaser suspect. It is against that background that red flag laws will be implemented. Regardless of what is in the bill, factors such as this kind of anti-gun-owner rhetoric is going to make it very difficult for a judge to remain rational and impartial when faced with these proceedings.
This is all the more insulting because the latest FBI data released in recent weeks shows that violent crime, in general, is decreasing as well as homicide related to firearms, at the same time that gun ownership is rising. This specifically disproves the idea that firearm ownership is making us less safe.
As always, pay close attention to candidates in all elections. Make sure you know where the candidates stand on the Second Amendment, and even more importantly, firmly and politely make sure they know where you stand as a voting constituent. And most importantly of all, stay well-regulated everyone!
Dennis Petrocelli, MD
Dr. Dennis Petrocelli has practiced forensic psychiatry for twenty years in Virginia. He is a contributing member of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a nationwide network of physicians, allied health professionals, scientists, and others who support the safe and lawful use of firearms. He recently appeared on the Gun for Hire Radio podcast to speak out against “red flag laws”: