Longtime Second Amendment activist and executive director of the Crime Prevention Research Center Nikki Goeser joins today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to explain why she recently testified in Congress against “red flag” laws, and what really needs to be done to help those in crisis without infringing on the civil rights of gun owners.
If you don’t know Goeser’s background, she found herself thrust into the gun control debate in a very personal way after her beloved husband Ben was killed twelve years ago. While Nikki possessed a valid Tennessee concealed carry license, she was unarmed the night her husband was murdered because state law didn’t allow her to legally carry her gun in a bar. Her husband’s killer had no problem violating that provision, and he was armed when he strolled into the bar where Goeser and her husband were running their mobile karaoke business.
Nikki tells me that in the months after her husband was stolen from her, there were times when she didn’t care if she lived or died. While she never felt suicidal, she says she was okay with the idea of God calling her home, and she believes that if Tennessee had a red flag law on the books, she very easily could have had her guns taken from her by those who were concerned that in her grief she would choose to harm herself.
Honestly, that’s not an unreasonable concern. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that judges hearing red flag petitions are taking a “better safe than sorry” approach, approving the vast majority of petitions that come before them. In Pinellas County, Florida, for example, 233 petitions were approved between March of 2018 and April of 2019, while just one petition was denied.
Goeser also points out another problem with red flag laws; the lack of legal representation for those who can’t afford it. If you’re arrested and charged with a crime but can’t afford an attorney, you’re entitled to a public defender. Because Extreme Risk Protection Orders are technically civil matters, on the other hand, those subject to a red flag petition are forced to either hire an attorney or go it alone in a courtroom against the local prosecutor.
As Goeser says, all 50 states already have civil commitment laws on the books, which are a far better way of dealing with someone who’s truly a threat to themselves or others. Not only are red flag laws unconstitutional in Goeser’s opinion, they’re ineffective, and can do real harm; both by stripping people of their firearms without due process, but also by merely taking guns away from those in the midst of a mental health crisis without providing them any substantive help or treatment at all.
I appreciate Goeser’s outspoken and thoughtful opposition to red flag laws, and I admire her courage and fortitude in testifying before the panel of senators a couple of weeks ago. I have a feeling that most Republicans on the subcommittee were already in Goeser’s corner, but I hope that the Democrats on the panel like Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut actually heard what Nikki had to say and didn’t just tune her out.
After you watch my interview with Nikki Goeser in the video window above, be sure to check out her full testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee below.