One of the problems I have with red flag laws is how their use gets turned around and used to justify their existence. There’s almost never any real way to study whether guns are taken from people who represent actual threats and whether they’re taken from people for a multitude of other reasons that have nothing to do with actual danger to others.
Down in Florida, Volusia County has seized more guns than anywhere else, and it illustrates the problems with the red flag laws.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has filed 160 risk protection orders since the red flag law took effect in March 2018 allowing police to temporarily seize and hold firearms from people who are considered a threat to themselves or others.
That’s nearly 2 ½ times the number risk protection orders filed by sheriff’s offices in the neighboring counties of Flagler, Orange, Seminole, Brevard and Lake. The other agencies combined had filed 66 risk protection orders based on the most recent figures available.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s risk protection orders, called RPOs for short, describe the often-chaotic situations that lead authorities to take the firearms: A man upset about a divorce shoots himself with a shotgun and survives; a husband threatening to shoot a wife during an argument; two neighbors getting into a gunfight in Deltona after one neighbor’s child uses the other’s backyard fence as a backboard for pitching practice.
Advocates of the law say risk protection orders save lives. Opponents say many of the cases are simply government overreach.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said there was no particular reason why his agency was filing significantly more such orders than others in the region.
“I don’t care about what any other county does,” Chitwood said. “Our deputies are well trained. We have a model policy. The Sheriff’s Office does not randomly seize firearms. We follow the law. It’s reviewed by our legal counsel and then it goes to a judge.”
At the end of the day, all we have to go on is the sheriff’s word that his department and his county is doing it right.
Of course, Sheriff Chitwood is going to defend his deputies. What else would he say? That his deputies are quick to trample on the civil liberties of ordinary Americans?
Yet also take their examples. They’re quick to point out a handful of examples that look very clearcut, but let’s be honest. Any county is going to have those. The individual instances might be unique, but the severity isn’t.
Those are only a handful of the 160 red flag orders filed, and those aren’t the truly alarming ones. While they’re all problematic–after all, if two guys had a gun battle, why weren’t they locked up rather than having their guns taken away?–they also represent many cases where it’s understandable someone would seek a red flag order. Yet what about the others?
Volusia County may not be doing anything particularly sneaky or underhanded regarding their use of red flag laws, but the fact that Chitwood doesn’t understand why his county is so much higher than everyone else’s illustrates how the complete lack of real oversight only helps these orders be used whenever a department wants.
Chitwood doesn’t know why his county is so much higher than everywhere else’s because he doesn’t have any reason to care.
How many of those 160 people were an actual threat? How few of them broke any law only to see their guns taken away? In fact, how many of them were on the receiving end of such an order because a family member viewed them as a threat because of a political opinion that had nothing to do with violence?
I’m sorry, but this stupidity needs to end. Red flag orders need to die.