Tennessee And Wyoming: Two Different Takes On 'Red Flag Laws'

Perhaps the most troubling proposal floating around various states, as well as the halls of Congress, are so-called “red flag laws.” What makes them troubling is that it’s easy for a reasonable person to buy into the nonsense. Taking guns from potentially violent people makes a lot of sense to them.

It’s not until you get into the nuts and bolts and really start thinking critically–something the media soundly discourages on these measures–that you start to see the flaws.

However, lawmakers in two different states are taking two different approaches to the topic of guns and mental illness.

First, let’s take a look at a Tennessee proposal.

A Tennessee lawmaker wants to allow residents to petition the courts to temporarily remove firearms from relatives who may pose a threat.

Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, is sponsoring a bill that would allow family members, household members, intimate partners or law enforcement to petition to temporarily confiscate guns from an individual who shows an immediate risk of harming themselves or others.

This type of law, commonly known as “red flag” laws or extreme risk protection orders, is being introduced nationwide in response to gun violence.

Under the proposed Senate Bill 1807, the petitioner would sign a sworn affidavit for the emergency protection order. If a judge grants the order, the person in question will be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm during the period the order is in effect.

This isn’t an unusual proposal. In fact, it’s the standard-issue red flag law complete with lack of due process, no mental health treatment, and making sure the potentially dangerous person is still walking around.

It’s similar to a measure that recently went into effect in Colorado, one that’s already had people attempt to misuse it.

People lie, and infringing on the rights of someone based on another’s word alone is nothing more than asking for people to lie in order to attack people they dislike…just like in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, legislators are taking a different route.

The first paragraph of any Wyoming bill must detail the intention of the proposed law. Unlike other states and the federal government, nothing else can be attached to the bill.

AN ACT relating to public safety; providing that certain mental health information that evidences federal firearms disqualification may be reported as specified; creating a procedure for persons disqualified for mental health reasons to challenge their disqualification; requiring the division of criminal investigation to collect and report specified mental health information; requiring state and local agencies to report specified mental health information and designate persons to receive notice; providing for limited liability as specified; and providing for an effective date.

This bill does provide “due process,” meaning that a person’s gun rights cannot be taken from them for mental health reasons unless and until they have had their day in court.

Now, I’m still not crazy about the idea of taking guns away from disturbed individuals. If they’re that big of a risk, then maybe involuntary confinement should be explored first and foremost. Not only would that get them off the streets, but it could also keep them from buying guns when they get out. If they’re that dangerous, it’s something that should be discussed, but more on that in a moment.

However, Wyoming at least follows due process of law first. In other words, someone can’t do what the woman in Colorado tried to do and pretend they’re family when they’re not, all to punish someone. Instead, the accused gets to defend themselves in court.

Further, this isn’t really a red flag law. It’s a measure that facilitates the adjudication of people as “mentally defective” and thus ineligible to purchase a firearm. In other words, if someone is that big of a threat, they’re treated as if they’re a real threat.

I’m not saying I support the Wyoming measure, but I’m a damn sight closer to backing that than the bill in Tennessee.

Due process matters, after all.