Red flag laws are incredibly contentious in this day and age, and for good reason. First, there’s the fact that the orders ignore due process of law by stripping people of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, usually without the person in question even being present to know their rights are in jeopardy.
However, more often than not, the red flag order isn’t even needed.
Yet some will continue to push for those orders, not caring about the innocent lives that would be shattered by such a law. That’s what’s currently happening in Kentucky.
A committee of state legislators heard testimony Friday from advocates and sponsors of a bipartisan gun bill they argue will save lives.
The bill would allow for emergency orders that temporarily remove guns from Kentuckians deemed an immediate threat to themselves and others.
Kirsten Russell of Louisville fought back tears when recounting the day her mother was shot and killed by her own son, who experienced mental illness. Despite her brother’s increasing delusions, Russell said he was able to purchase multiple firearms because he had no criminal record.
“This is where an extreme risk protection order could have changed my family’s story,” Russell said. “If only we could have called law enforcement and shared our concerns regarding his behavior … we would have had a way to temporarily separate my brother from his guns to ensure his safety and ensure everyone else’s.”
First, a case can be made that if the brother was that disturbed, he should have been adjudicated by the court so he would be permanently separated from his guns. It would have also made it so he couldn’t have bought more.
Of course, if the brother wasn’t that disturbed in the first place, then what you have is the kind of senseless tragedy that won’t be stopped with a red flag law. After all, a gun isn’t the only way her brother could have killed her mother.
A better mechanism would have been to have her brother committed for a time to determine if he really was a threat to anyone. I don’t see that happening either.
Anyway, back to the red flag law itself:
Commonly referred to as a “red flag” law, the bill would allow law enforcement and immediate family members to request a court hearing to determine whether the person in question is an immediate and substantial danger.
The judge could then issue an extreme risk protection order that the individual’s guns be temporarily confiscated, as well as flagged on background checks for gun purchases, until that order is lifted.
State Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, testified about the bill to the Interim Joint Judiciary Committee, saying they are close to finalizing a draft of their bill and filing it for the General Assembly session beginning in January.
Hornback told legislators he is a gun owner, hunter and supporter of the Second Amendment, but said “society had changed” and action needed to be taken. He said his bill provided “reasonable restrictions” that are temporary, asking his colleagues to “enter this with an open mind.”
I, on the other hand, urge his colleagues to recognize that this is nothing more than a retreat in the fact of anti-gun hysteria and will have little to no impact on violence in the state.
In the vast majority of instances when someone claims a red flag law would have helped, you can find where numerous people dropped the ball in using existing law. From Parkland to the above-quoted scenario, someone failed to act with the laws that are currently on the books and now they’re trying to assuage their guilt by demanding another law be passed.
Meanwhile, we also see that suicides are up in states that have red flag laws on the books. Now, I’ll grant that such a fact is most likely correlation rather than causation, but if red flag laws are supposed to help prevent suicide–something proponents like to claim–then one should expect to see the opposite trend.
The truth of the matter is that society may have changed, but only because it’s always changing. It hasn’t changed in such a way that we should completely ignore people’s rights, even temporarily, because of a loved one’s hysteria. Use the laws on the books and you’ll find that many times, the problems will suddenly be taken care of without needing something new.