On paper, red flag laws sound pretty good to a lot of folks. If someone may be a threat, you can notify the courts and their guns get taken away. That mean, in theory, they won’t be able to shoot up the local grocery store or church.
The problem is that a lot of people get flagged as threats when they’re no such thing. Far too many people get their knickers in a twist because you disagree with them. They think you’re a threat because you think they’re wrong or, even more heinously, stupid.
As Michelle Malkin notes at Townhall, the Veteran’s Administration has been “flagging” veterans who take issue with the organization for some time now.
But if you want to know how this American version of China’s social credit system would work in practice, let me remind you of how Veterans Affairs recklessly red-flags “disruptive” citizens without due process, transparency or accountability in the name of “safety.” Government bureaucrats routinely deprive our nation’s heroes of medical treatment based on arbitrary definitions of who and what constitutes a mental health menace.
I first reported on the VA’s secretive database on “disgruntled” and “disruptive” vets five years ago. Under the VA policy on “patient record flags,” federal bureaucrats can classify vets as “threats” based on assessments of their “difficult,” “annoying” and “noncompliant” behavior. The VA manual says the flags “are used to alert Veterans Health Administration medical staff and employees of patients whose behavior and characteristics may pose a threat either to their safety, the safety of other patients, or compromise the delivery of quality health care.”
What a crock. It’s precisely because so many vets receive inferior care from the feds that they have been forced to raise their voices. Have we all forgotten the 40 veterans who perished at the Phoenix, Arizona VA, which relegated patients to a bureaucratic black hole through secret waiting lists? Among examples of patients’ behavior referred to the red-flaggers in the VA’s “Disruptive Behavior Committees” (Orwell couldn’t have cooked up a better name): venting “frustration about VA services and/or wait times, threatening lawsuits or to have people fired, and frequent unwarranted visits to the emergency department or telephone calls to facility staff.”
Now, some might argue that those flags may well be useful in some cases. Some veterans, like folks in any other group you care to name, can be dangerous. However, those are lost among the sea of those so flagged because they raised their voice over legitimate problems.
And that’s the problem with red flag laws. They allow people to take what is merely a disagreement and amplify it to a threat.
Remember, we recently had a group that thought a billboard calling them idiots was inciting violence. What if those same voices had the ability to get the government to take all those guns away from the business owner? That would probably include everything in the gun store as well. The store would be ruined, all because someone got upset over a comment that wasn’t even threatening.
That’s where red flag laws will invariably go.
While they might start with good intentions, they’ll become legalized swatting in no time at all.