Why Are So Many Pro-Gun Legislators Open To Red Flag Laws?

There’s a very real possibility we’ll see a federal red flaw law pass some time this year. It may not be a spectacular chance, but there’s a very real chance we’ll see it pass, and that’s troubling.


Red flag laws send up plenty of red flags of their own for anyone who is really familiar with the proposals. In addition to the Second Amendment issues, there are due process concerns as well, yet legislators still seem willing to at least consider these laws.

Yes, even pro-gun lawmakers.

Republican Rep. Steve Watkins got heat Monday from frustrated eastern Kansas constituents who pressed the freshman congressman to publicly endorse tougher gun laws following recent mass shootings.

Several people left a Watkins town hall meeting in Topeka unhappy that he didn’t commit himself during the event to backing stronger background checks for firearms purchases or a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to seize guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others. Members of the audience of about 40 interrupted Watkins when he tried to defend the GOP’s record on gun issues.

Watkins told reporters after the meeting that he’s open to looking at a red flag law and at steps to improve existing background checks because he’s willing to consider “what could make a difference.” But he also said he’s still “unequivocally” a supporter of gun rights.

Watkins is a state legislator in Kansas, a very pro-gun state. So why is he open to red flag laws? And why does he still say he’s an “unequivocal” supporter of gun rights?

After all, isn’t that a bit of a contradiction?

Well, the easy answer is to just say that none of these lawmakers are really pro-gun in the first place. That’s simple when you have a very strict purity standard where anyone who is less than perfect isn’t really pro-gun. However, that’s also not very productive.


Certainly people like Watkins and many of the other lawmakers around the country who have backed such bills certainly consider themselves champions of the Second Amendment, so why back red flag laws?

That’s the question we really need to be asking ourselves.

My own take is simple. We’re not doing a good enough job in describing just what red flag laws are really capable of doing should they come to pass. Yes, we have the Maryland gun owner who was shot and killed when police tried to serve a red flag order on him, but that’s going to be viewed as an outlier, an extreme case. After all, proponents will argue that these laws have been on the books in some places for years and this isn’t a common occurrence there.

What we need to do is find real stories of people who have been hurt by these laws. We need to show these officials what the human cost of these laws are, then couple it with the failures of red flag laws, such as Gilroy or the Thousand Oaks shooting.

We need examples to show where these laws are just bad on every level. If we can’t, expect to see more and more ostensibly pro-gun legislators backing these bills.

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