Washington State Gun Seizure Is Not A "Red Flag" Success Story

I joined Jesse Kelly on his new show “I’m Right with Jesse Kelly” on Pluto TV’s new channel The First on Tuesday to discuss a pretty weird “red flag” case out of Washington State. An avowed neo-Nazi who allegedly heads the Washington chapter of a domestic terrorism group had his firearms seized after law enforcement convinced a judge that he was a danger to himself or others, despite not having been charged with any sort of crime.

In the civil paperwork, prosecutors and the FBI convinced a judge that “Kaleb Cole poses a serious threat to public safety by having access and possession to firearms and a concealed pistol license.”

The judge issued an order requiring Cole to surrender all firearms to the police.

According to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, it was the FBI that actually initiated the process.

“The fact is the federal government came to us. There’s no other mechanism like our firearms unit that’s in existence. There’s no one else in the state that’s doing this,” said Holmes.

It’s the first time the Feds have sought an ERPO in Washington state, and it’s believed to be one of the first instances in the nation.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, whose deputy prosecutor Kim Wyatt argued the ERPO case before the judge, said the order to surrender guns is the right tool when law enforcement does not have enough evidence to file a criminal charge.

It’s that last line that’s causing me some heartburn here. If law enforcement doesn’t have enough evidence to file a criminal charge, or adjudicate them as mentally defective, then how can someone be stripped of their constitutional rights, no matter how much of a creep, a racist, or an awful person they might be?

The city attorney says he firmly believes the firearms seizure “prevented a massacre,” but that’s absurd. Cole, the neo-Nazi, is still a free man. Authorities say he’s a member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, and has trained with fellow members using firearms in locations around the state. We’re supposed to believe that this dangerous individual is no longer dangerous because is legally owned guns have been removed from his home, though he’s still running around with his armed neo-Nazi friends. Do the FBI and prosecutors not realize that Cole could easily, if illegally, acquire firearms?

This is why “red flag” laws aren’t really about public safety at all. According to the FBI and and prosecutors, Kaleb Cole is a serious threat to public safety, but they’re not actually doing anything about that. Instead, they simply take his guns, pat themselves on the back for a job well done, and move on. Meanwhile, the supposedly dangerous individual is still out there, just as dangerous as he ever was.

I don’t think Kaleb Cole would like me, and the feeling is mutual. He and his neo-Nazi buddies might even consider my blended family to be extermination-worthy, once their race war kicks off. Be that as it may, he doesn’t appear to have actually broken any laws, and holding abhorrent views is not a reason to deprive someone of their constitutional rights. After all, there are plenty of people in this country who believe that the NRA is a “terrorist organization”, and I’m sure they’d love to use the precedent set here to go after people who aren’t a threat to anyone at all.

On his show yesterday, Jesse Kelly pointed out another issue with these red flag laws; the fact that judges are simply approving the vast majority of applications because who wants to be the judge that let someone keep their guns, only to see them commit a crime or harm themselves later? Nothing bad is going to happen to a judge that approves 99% of red flag applications, even if individuals who aren’t a threat to themselves or others lose their right to keep and bear arms, but a judge that rejects a red flag petition will face a firestorm of controversy and calls for their job if it turns out they got it wrong. Judges are going to play it safe, but at the expense of civil rights.

If Kaleb Cole is a threat to the public, then find a charge that will stick. The FBI has been cracking down on the group that Cole belongs to for well over a year, and have arrested more than a dozen members of the group in several states, including Washington State. That’s the right way to go about taking down this group. Using Washington State’s red flag law is just security theater; taking away the guns but leaving the dangerous individual behind.