There are plenty of red flag cases floating around, many of which aren’t likely to be much of anything. Someone loses their cool and someone else petitions the court to yank that person’s guns because they’re “unstable.”
Proponents of such laws only look at the total number of orders issued to assess whether or not the law “works.” They don’t delve into the details.
However, a case out of Florida illustrates not only how these laws can be misused, but also how it’s stupid to just count the cases of red flag orders being issued in order to assess their effectiveness.
The allegations against Kevin Morgan were alarming. They described just the sort of circumstances that Florida legislators had in mind when they approved that state’s “red flag” law in 2018, three weeks after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Morgan’s estranged wife, Joanie, claimed he was depressed, suicidal, and obsessed with the apocalypse, which he thought was imminent. She said he was stockpiling food, gold, guns, and ammunition in anticipation of the end times; that he talked about seeing, hearing, and wrestling with demons; and that he had performed a ritual that involved rubbing “oils” on their children and the walls of their house. She reported that he was abusing the drugs he had been prescribed for chronic pain, had talked about dismembering his former wife, had intimated he would do the same to her if she ever disrespected him, and had threatened to kill her with succinylcholine, a paralytic agent used during surgery and intubation.
On the strength of such claims, Joanie Morgan obtained a temporary domestic violence protection injunction, an involuntary psychiatric evaluation order under the Florida Mental Health Act (a.k.a. the Baker Act), and a temporary “risk protection order” under the red flag law, which authorizes the suspension of a person’s Second Amendment rights when he is deemed a threat to himself or others. All three were ex parte orders, meaning they were issued without giving Kevin Morgan a chance to rebut the allegations against him.
But when it was time for a judge to decide whether the initial gun confiscation order, which was limited to 14 days, should be extended for a year, Morgan got a hearing, and the lurid picture painted by his wife disintegrated. By the end of the hearing, in an extraordinary turn of events unlike anything you are likely to see in a courtroom drama, the lawyer representing the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, which was seeking the final order, conceded that he had not met the law’s evidentiary standard, and the judge agreed.
I advise you to go and read the whole piece because there are a lot of details there worth knowing and understanding. Including how the sheriff’s department didn’t bother to investigate these claims but instead took them at face value. Through it all, though, Morgan was calm and polite, eventually shattering the narrative surrounding him at this point.
He was lucky, though. Had her claims been less audacious, Morgan’s wife may well have been able to get the order held in place indefinitely, all without any real evidence.
This isn’t the only example of someone trying to misuse the system, either. For example, we have a woman in Colorado who tried to use their red flag law to punish the police officer who shot her son–someone who was trying to commit suicide by cop.
In other words, this isn’t the only example of this kind of thing. It’s happening and it’s real, despite what red flag law proponents may wish to believe.
Morgan dodged a bullet only because the claims were so ridiculous that it was fairly easy to disprove them. Had his wife and mother-in-law simply agreed to say something far more simple and more difficult to disprove, he may well have found his Second Amendment rights revoked for a prolonged period of time.
All because someone got their undies in a bunch and wanted to punish their partner during a divorce.
But sure. Red flag laws are great and are never misused. Pull the other one. It’s got bells on it.