Media asks why Florida's red flag law didn't stop Jacksonville

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

The shooting in a Jacksonville Dollar General that left three people dead has a lot of people asking a lot of questions. That’s not a bad thing, either. In and of itself, it’s a good thing to look at what happened and wonder what we could do better going forward.

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It’s how we do better, after all.

The problem, of course, is that something like this invariably leads to people wanting to use political tools to impact the outcome. Again, not terrible in and of itself, except most of those are people who only look surface level.

They think “guns” and little else.

Even some things like red flag laws are really about the guns. The idea, as presented, is to take guns from potential mass shooters before they kill people.

And Florida has such a law, passed in the wake of Parkland. So now some are asking why it didn’t stop the shooting.

Police in Florida took a 15-year-old into custody six years ago for threatening to take his own life, though he was soon released following an involuntary mental health examination, according to official records.

This past weekend, that same person entered a Jacksonville Dollar General as a 21-year-old, wielding a rifle emblazoned with a swastika, and fatally shot three Black people in a racist attack. The gunman, who was white, then killed himself.

Saturday’s shooting raises questions about whether so-called red flag laws in Florida and other states are used effectively. They are designed to seize guns from those in mental health crises, or who threaten violence, before they harm someone.

The Jacksonville gunman, [name removed], had made racist writings discovered by his father after the shooting started. But it isn’t clear whether he earlier made the kind of open threats of violence or engaged in witnessed behaviors that should have led to action under the state’s red flag law.

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The report then goes on to argue that the killer’s time in the hospital for threatening to take his own life came before the red flag law was passed in 2018, but I’d argue that’s irrelevant.

A lot can happen in six years, after all, and red flag laws are supposedly not meant to deprive someone of their right to keep and bear arms indefinitely. There’s little doubt he’d have moved past any such order.

“But he had racist writings!”

Yeah, he apparently did. That’s because he was apparently a racist sack of feces.

But being racist doesn’t disqualify one from owning a firearm. Like it or not, people who hold opinions vastly different from your own get to enjoy the totality of their constitutionally protected rights no matter how abhorrent you find them and what they believe.

Just being a racist doesn’t mean a red flag law can be used. You need actual threats, either to hurt others or yourself. Then such an order can be used.

Yet despite that, let’s also consider that this is someone whose ideology drove them to commit mass murder. Even removing the guns from the equation may not have made anyone safer. If he were that determined to kill innocent people for the “sin” of simply being black, then that irrationality may well have driven him to find another means to kill people.

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Taking his guns away wouldn’t have done much if he’d decided to drive through a crowd of black people somewhere, killing who knows how many in the process. It wouldn’t have done a lot of good if he’d plated a bomb somewhere on a Historic Black College or University.

And that’s assuming he didn’t get another gun somehow.

Homicidal people don’t become angels because you took their guns away. Red flag laws don’t make people better than they were.

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