Is Buying A Gun Problematic Behavior? One Lawmaker Thinks So

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Do you remember the first time you bought a firearm? I do. I was at a gun show and picked up an SKS. It’s all I could really afford at the time and I remember being shocked that I had to fill out a 4473. So much for the gun show loophole, right?


It was a good day. I immediately stopped by a buddy’s workplace and had him come out to the car to check it out. A week later I was getting a zero on it at the range and all that jazz.

Then…well, not much. I shot it a fair bit before eventually picking up an AR-15, handguns, and things of that sort.

But one Pennsylvania legislator thinks you buying a gun could potentially be a great big red flag. In fact, it’s the same lawmaker who is pushing for a red flag law for that state, and he wants the purchase of a firearm to be considered concerning behavior as far as the law goes [emphasis mine]:

That family member starts saying that life doesn’t seem worth living. Perhaps she even went out and bought a gun, despite never expressing an interest in firearms before.

Under [State Rep. Todd] Stephens’ proposal, a family member could then ask a court to review a request to have her gun or guns taken away for between three months to a year.

In Stephens’ current bill, a petitioner’s evidence can include a recent purchase of a gun, as well as suicidal threats, acts of violence, animal abuse, or “any additional information the court finds to be reliable.”

As if there weren’t enough other reasons to oppose red flag laws, Stephens had to go and include that.

For someone like him, purchasing a gun is troubling behavior, I’m sure. And, to be fair, someone who is depressed buying a gun would be cause for concern for me too. However, the last thing in the world I’d want to do is add to the difficulties they’re experiencing by treating the purchase like a definitive statement of an intent to do harm.


Instead of running to the court, I’d talk to them, make sure everything was OK. Yes, I’d ask about the gun purchase, but I’d try to do it in such a way that they don’t feel attacked or anything. After all, depressed people have a right to defend themselves from harm, same as the rest of us.

Stephens’ bill, though, treats that behavior as if its somehow abhorrent, like it should be some significant cause for concern, and supporters turn to Connecticut’s red flag law to provide evidence.

Advocates for stricter gun laws point to positive outcomes in such states as Connecticut, where these orders prevented between 38 and 76 suicides over a 14-year span, according to one study.

Over a 14 year span, that amounts to a maximum of just over five suicides per year supposedly prevented. And that’s the most charitable average one can give. The minimum is less than three per year.

Yet how many people were deprived of their Second Amendment rights, even temporarily, because someone freaked the hell out and overreacted to some difficulties in someone’s life? How many lost their guns because they pissed off a family member who used the law to get back at them?

I’m going to take a stab in the dark and argue that it’s a hell of a lot more than five people.

Look, red flag laws might have a place in various circumstances. Arguably, suicide prevention would be one of those. It’s a discussion worth having, at the very least.


The moment you decide that exercising a constitutionally protected right constitutes troubling behavior, though, we’ve got a problem. A big one.

You see, Stephens and people like him are trying to present this as a public safety bill. They talk about suicide prevention and curbing mass shootings to justify these laws, but it’s quite plain that the effort is about the fact that they don’t like guns. Otherwise, why assume that purchasing a firearm represents troubling behavior?

Stephens can’t imagine why people oppose his red flag bill, I’m sure. However, I suspect he’s been told time and time again. He just doesn’t want to listen.

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