One of the problems with red flag laws is that unless the laws are written very specifically, they’re ripe for abuse. People can use these laws to punish enemies, for example, by claiming they’re a threat and having the courts forcibly disarm law-abiding citizens, even if only for a short period of time.
Apparently, in Florida, this is happening far more often than anyone should be comfortable with.
Since the ‘red flag’ law was enacted in March, Florida authorities have filed more than 400 orders to seize firearms from gun owners or ban them from owning one due to perceived risk to themselves or others, WFTS-TV reported.
Although the laws are intended to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people, some feel the Risk Protection Act violates citizens’ rights.
“I think we’re doing this because it makes us feel safer,” attorney Kendra Parris said. “It violates the constitution.”
Parris, who represents some citizens targeted by the risk protection orders, said the law is written so vaguely that it is impacting people who are not really a threat to anyone.
“These are individuals who are often exercising their First Amendment rights online, who are protecting constitutionally protected speech online,” Parris told WFTS. “Maybe it was odious, maybe people didn’t like it, but they were hit with a risk protection order because of it.”
Examples Parris cited include a college student who praised mass shooters online, and a case in which a minor said she had a dream of killing. In neither of those cases was the individual a gun owner, and both won their cases against the authorities who filed the risk protection petition.
Now, someone who sincerely praises a mass killer is probably not someone I want to spend any time around, but free speech is free speech, even if it’s disturbing free speech.
That’s the problem with red flag laws. They may take away someone’s Second Amendment right because they exercised their First Amendment rights in a way someone didn’t like. Hell, in ways I don’t like.
But rights don’t require my approval. That’s what makes them rights in the first place.
By taking away someone’s Second Amendment rights, even temporarily, because they said unpleasant things, Florida and other states have traded liberty for the mere illusion of temporary security. I can’t help but think that if challenged, laws like this will be overturned because they essentially penalize someone utilizing free speech.
After all, someone may praise a mass killer sarcastically or as part of some dark humor while representing no threat to anyone. Someone reporting having a dream where they committed murder is hardly all that unusual and rarely represents anything that’s a threat to anyone. Yet both were hit with risk protection orders because they made someone uncomfortable.
The laws that popped up in the wake of Parkland are understandable. Lawmakers felt like they had to do something.
The problem was, the laws on the book were already sufficient to stop the killer. Those in authority simply refused to act and continued to allow the killer to get a free pass until something happened that couldn’t be ignored.
While many of us, myself included, lashed out at the government’s refusal to act on the “red flags,” this isn’t what we had in mind. Those red flags included actual acts of violence, specific threats while planning his attack, things like that. Not vague dreams or praising the wrong person.