HARRISBURG, PA –-(Ammoland.com)- Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced Red Flag laws in Harrisburg, which they consider “reasonable” to protect gun owners and others.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) are better known to the public as Red Flag laws. These laws let police seize guns of those that they believe pose a threat to themselves or others. ERPOs have been a controversial tool of law enforcement since the accused do not get to defend themselves against the accusations in court before a judge issues an ERPO.
Many in and outside the gun world believe that ERPOs violate the Due Process Clause in the United States Constitution.
Red Flag laws vary from state to state, but most states allow a family member or roommate to report a gun owner to the police as a danger to themselves or others. Police will go in front of a judge to get an ERPO issued. It is very rare for a judge to deny a request from law enforcement for an ERPO since the burden of proof is very low.
Police will then serve the ERPO on the subject. In many cases, police treat the serving of an ERPO as the same as serving a high-risk warrant. The state will seize all the guns from the gun owner but will leave them free on the streets. The gun owner will have to go to court to battle to get their firearms back from the authorities. ERPOs have been abused in the past. In one case, an ERPO was taken out on a Colorado police officer by a slain suspect’s mother.
ERPOs have also led to tragedy in the past. In 2018, police killed a 61-year-old Maryland man while serving an ERPO at 5:30 in the morning. The man’s sister filed for an ERPO due to a family dispute. According to the rest of the man’s family, he wasn’t a danger to anyone.
Rep Todd Stevens introduced the Pennsylvania House Red Flag bill (HB 1903). Stevens has introduced similar bills in the past. He has a rocky relationship with the gun community. He actively campaigned under an anti-gun platform.
Under Rep Stevens’ bill, the gun owner would have to provide evidence that they do not pose a danger to themselves or others. Gun rights advocates point that it is almost impossible to prove a negative. Also, the gun owner must hire an attorney or rely on a public defender. It could cost the accused gun owner thousands of dollars to recover their firearms. Removing the guns does not stop a mentally disturbed person from using another tool to hurt themselves or others.
Gun Owners of America has been pushing back against these Red Flag laws in the Commonwealth. According to Pennsylvania State Director Dr. Val Finnell, GOA views ERPOs as “gun confiscation order.” The gun-rights organization believes that ERPOs violate several parts of the Constitution.
“Red Flag Gun Confiscation Orders violate 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendment rights of gun owners,” Dr. Finnell told AmmoLand. “The hearing before a judge will be ‘ex parte,’ with the accused having no right to confront his accuser. There is no need for any evidence that a crime is actually being contemplated. All that has to be shown is that you are subjectively dangerous to someone at the incredibly low preponderance of the evidence standard.”
One of the biggest supporters of the Red Flag bill is Rep. Jennifer O’Mara. She claims not to be anti-gun, but she has ties to Bloomberg-funded anti-gun groups like Moms Demand Action. She also has the backing of CeaseFire PA, which is a rabid anti-gun group within the Commonwealth.
O’Mara claims that the Red Flag would prevent suicides. O’Mara doesn’t offer any solutions to suicide by overdosing, hangings, or other methods. Many think that the Pennsylvania legislature is concentrating too much on the tool and not enough on the problem of mental health.
In January, State Senator Wayne Fontana introduced Senate Bill (PA SB 134). That bill hasn’t moved since the end of January.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.