AP Photo/Michael Conroy
So-called Red Flag Laws are all the rage in anti-gun circles. Part of that is because, on the surface, they seem to address the problem of how to stop a mass shooting and how to disarm someone who hasn’t broken any laws before they can break laws.
However, the bills that have been proposed across the nation are all problematic to varying degrees. Most of them have little to no regard for due process. Further, there’s very little in them to dissuade people from using them to punish those they’re angry with.
As a result, gun rights activists cringe at the mere mention of them. So when I read that Maine had reached a compromise on such a measure, I was concerned.
The thing is, this may be a solid way to approach such a bill.
The rough language of a compromise measure that is expected to supplant a so-called “red flag” proposal by linking gun seizures to assessments of mental health conditions under existing Maine protective custody laws was released on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans office released a rough draft of a proposed compromise deal. It would beef up the state’s protective custody laws by adding a provision to existing protective custody laws to allow medical professionals to determine whether a person with a mental health condition has a weapon that increases the risk of harm to themselves or others.
If that determination is made, the person would surrender weapons to police until a hearing that would be held within 14 days. At that hearing, a judge could extend those terms for a year. The person would get weapons back when a court deems them to no longer present a major threat.
In other words, it would provide short term disarmament–which is still less than ideal, but it’s also only two weeks–until a formal hearing is held in which case the individual either gets his guns back or the judge rules they can’t for a specific period of time. Either way, at least due process has been observed.
I can’t say that I’m thrilled with this by any stretch, but it’s one of the better proposals being discussed. No one is going to be happy with it, which is often considered a sign that it’s a good and proper compromise. That’s fair.
What it doesn’t do, though, is create a way where any schmuck with a score to settle can push the legal system to kick in someone’s door and disarm them without due process. The authority rests in the hands of people who know how to identify threatening behavior and the legal system. That’s a far sight better than what Maine residents were faced with.
Far too many Red Flag laws passed in the aftermath of Parkland. Now, it’s good to see that lawmakers are starting to take a step back and recognize that while proposals such as these may be popular, they’re not necessarily ideal nor effective.
Maine may have the best balance so far.
The trick will be getting the damn thing to pass.