Focus on "red flag" a red herring in CO nightclub shooting

Is it just me, or has the media been weirdly focused on the supposed failure to invoke Colorado’s “red flag” law in advance of last weekend’s shooting at the Q nightclub in Colorado Springs? I’ve seen plenty of stories discussing how the suspect “evaded” the state law and even blaming the local sheriff for not filing an Extreme Risk Protection Order against the suspect, but almost all of the coverage either downplays or ignores completely the bigger question of how and why the suspect managed to avoid felony charges of kidnapping after a bomb threat incident just last year. As we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, this isn’t the only high-profile shooting of late where the anti-gun media has concentrated on “red flag” laws while ignoring a suspect’s criminal past and lack of consequences.

We saw a similar narrative take shape in the wake of the murders of three University of Virginia football players on campus just last week. The local newspapers and websites ran numerous pieces wondering why the state’s “red flag” laws hadn’t come into play, while there was almost no discussion whatsoever about what led prosecutors to drop felony hit-and-run charges filed against the suspect last year; charges that would have resulted in a lifetime prohibition on gun ownership if he’d been convicted rather than accept a plea deal to reduced charges and a suspended sentence.

These are just a couple of very visible examples of the lack of consequences that many defendants receive in the criminal justice system. Every day on Cam & Co we feature similar stories in our “Recidivist Report” segment. Today, for example, we highlighted the failure of the probation system in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in keeping track of those on electronic home monitoring, including the suspect charged with five counts of attempted murder for shooting at a funeral service in Pittsburgh late last month.

Wwo days before police say Shawn Davis shot five people at a North Side funeral on Oct. 28, Allegheny County Adult Probation received an alert that his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet had been removed.

No action was taken.

“We get a lot of alerts,” Probation Supervisor Jason Bright testified in a court hearing Friday. “They’re not all legit.

“If you get an alert, it’s not immediately checked upon.”

In Davis’ case, it wasn’t checked at all — until after he was charged with attempting to kill five people.

Bright was called as a witness on Friday during a bail hearing in an unrelated homicide case.

Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Ramaley, who was opposing bail for that defendant, was trying to show Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Beth A. Lazzara that electronic home monitoring — increasingly used by probation and pre-trial services — is unreliable in keeping the community safe.

Electronic home monitoring, Ramaley said, is not appropriate “particularly in extremely dangerous, violent individuals.

“It will not (protect) public safety in Allegheny County the way it’s being run.”

Davis was placed on electronic home monitoring in April of this year after a judge suspended a 10-to-23-month prison sentence Davis received last year for attempting to rob  a store clerk at gunpoint. Not only did Davis not have to report to prison after trying to shoot the clerk, he was able to repeatedly violate the terms of his home monitoring with no consequence.

On June 13, probation issued a request for a warrant for Davis, after EHM recorded four separate alerts of unauthorized leave or entry between June 9-13.

Davis told his probation officer he had been leaving to go to his girlfriend’s house even though he was not permitted to do so.

Although he was warned about his behavior, Davis again left his home on June 15.

“It is respectfully recommended that due to the refusal to comply with community supervision, the severity and violent nature of the present offense, Davis remain detained and a (probation) hearing be scheduled at the court’s earliest convenience,” wrote Probation Officer Brandon Bailey.

Bright reviewed and signed that request.

However, following a June 24 hearing before Charlene Christmas, who is listed in paperwork as a hearing officer, it was determined that Davis would get new EHM equipment. He was released on June 28.

And just a few months later he’d be accused of once again removing his electronic monitoring device, only this time authorities say he went on to shoot multiple people at a funeral on the north side of Pittsburgh.

All of the attention placed on “red flag” laws allows the media and lawmakers to ignore the very real problems in our criminal justice and mental health systems, even though addressing the crises in those institutions is both far more important and effective in terms of reducing violent crime and effectively dealing with dangerous individuals. These “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” may take guns away from those deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others, but they do nothing to treat the underlying dangerousness of the individual. In fact, the vast majority of “red flag” laws, including Colorado’s, have no mental health component to them whatsoever, and continue to give supposedly dangerous individuals access to all kinds of things they could use to harm themselves or others; from sharp knives to gasoline and matches.

I think the reason why we’re hearing so much talk about “red flag” laws right now is pretty simple: gun control activists and their allies in politics and the media are trying to exploit these tragedies to try to expand the use of ERPOs and make them easier to implement. Anti-gun lawmakers are more than happy to claim they “did something” by pushing for “red flag” laws while ignoring the crumbling criminal justice system and the critical shortage of resources for those suffering from a mental health crisis in states like Colorado, and the gun control lobby is equally thrilled to see legislators aim their fire at gun ownership instead of addressing the fundamental flaws in some of our most important institutions.