One of my big complaints about “red flag” laws (beyond the constitutional concerns over due process and the Second Amendment) is that they provide prosecutors and police with a tool that allows them to say they’ve “done something,” rather than doing something effective to deal with an individual who truly presents a danger to themselves or others.
The case of Bryce Shelby in Colorado is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. The 28-year old lost his ability to legally possess a firearm for a year after he allegedly threatened to kill Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and other public officials, but that appears to be the only consequence that Shelby suffered.
DPD and the FBI investigated Shelby after they became aware of his social media posts. During the investigation, Shelby told an undercover FBI agent that he planned to shoot Weiser and didn’t mind getting “blood on his hands,” according to the DPD petition.
He had “scoped out” Weiser’s residence by driving past it on more than one occasion, the petition says.
DPD also said Shelby told the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to eliminate Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and the police chiefs for both those cities.
The self-professed Black Panther was investigated by both the FBI and the Denver police after he talked about joining a “nationalist paramilitary organization, and posted violent and threatening posts to social media,” but so far no criminal charges have been filed. Instead, back on November 12th, a judge in Colorado granted an extreme risk protection order filed by the Denver PD and ordered Shelby to surrender his legally-owned guns for twelve months.
If Shelby truly poses a threat to these public officials, why is he still out on the streets? Why did the Denver police not use the state’s civil commitment laws, which could also have led to the loss of Shelby’s Second Amendment rights but would have guaranteed him mental health treatment?
Why haven’t either federal officials or local prosecutors charged Shelby with any crime? Police argued that Shelby himself posed a threat to himself or others, but Shelby himself remains free. It’s his guns that have been locked up. That doesn’t change his expressed desire to harm others. It just means he’ll have to work a little harder to do so if he decides to put thought into action.
This is the folly of red flag laws. Shelby’s been ordered to surrender his guns, but he still has access to his car keys, gasoline, matches, rope, knives, and anything else he might want to use as a weapon. Meanwhile, because there’s no mental health component to what was billed as mental health proposal, the state is apparently doing nothing to ensure that Shelby receives any sort of counseling or treatment in the twelve months that he’s not allowed to possess a gun. I don’t see how that can be considered a “common sense” solution to anything.
If Shelby’s a danger to others, he should be charged with a crime or placed in an in-patient mental health facility. If he’s not a danger, he shouldn’t have had his guns taken away. Either way, the state’s use of the red flag law hasn’t helped anyone except the anti-gun lawmakers that approved it, who can now pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other on doing “something,” instead of something that works.