As we first reported on Friday, Virginia Democrats have officially filed a “red flag” firearms seizure bill that violates the due process rights of Virginians while doing nothing to actually treat or help those who may be a danger to themselves or others.
Republican lawmakers are panning the measure as well, with incoming House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert telling Bearing Arms:
“Our concern with this bill and others like it is that these bills go too far, and open the door for abuse that would not only endanger citizens but also law enforcement. There is room to tweak our existing, proven system of dealing with those who may be a threat to themselves or others while preserving due process, but this bill comes up short.”
The existing system that Gilbert is referring to would be Virginia’s civil commitment laws, which use mental health professionals to decide if someone poses a threat to themselves or others, unlike the “red flag” proposal which leaves the decision in the hands of a judge who’s never actually spoken to the person who is the subject of an Extreme Risk Protection Order.
The Virginia Shooting Sports Association is also speaking out against the bill. Dave Adams, legislative affairs director for the group, says the measure has far more to do with gun confiscation than mental health.
“As with other laws of this type, it does nothing for those ruled to be a risk to no longer be a risk other than taking the firearms. It takes guns prior to a hearing to determine if the individual is a risk, and it gives immunity to law enforcement if someone’s firearms are damaged or stolen while in law enforcement custody. It has none of the constitutional protections that for instance, Dave Kopel, recommends for the law to be constitutional.”
It’s possible that the red flag bill will be amended during the legislative process, but I’m not holding my breath that whatever passes out of the legislature and is signed by Governor Ralph Northam is going to a) respect the due process rights of Virginians and b) actually treat the individual who’s been deemed a danger to themselves or others. As I pointed out in my analysis of the legislation, the phrase “mental health” actually doesn’t appear anywhere in the Extreme Risk Protection Order section of SB 240.
Unfortunately the VSSA’s Dave Adams is spot on when he says it has much more to do with seizing guns than helping those in crisis. In a state that’s dealing with a rising suicide and drug overdose rate, I still find it unconscionable that Governor Northam and so many of his legislative allies are turning a blind eye to those in need and casting their eager eyes on the legally-owned firearms of Virginia residents.