Red flag laws are touted as the answer to mass shootings. There’s no evidence that they’re any such thing, of course, but that has never stopped anti-gun voices from trying to push that tired line.
The Lewiston shooting is just one example of how laws we’re told will mitigate the risk don’t actually do anything.
Maine’s law is referred to as a yellow flag law–because I guess that sounds better than red flag–requires mental health experts to ask for someone’s guns to be taken and while such experts saw the man who would eventually become the killer, they didn’t do anything.
Regardless, Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins wants to apply that to US military personnel.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is putting together legislation to require the U.S. military to adhere to state-level red and yellow flag laws for troops.
A red flag law allows family, friends, and others, to seek a court order to have guns removed from someone they view as a danger to himself or others. A yellow flag law is more narrow, allowing law enforcement to seek the court order for firearm removal.
Collins bill comes in response to the October 25, 2023, Lewiston, Maine, attacks, which were carried out by a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
The attacker used a sniper rifle which was legally purchased.
Maine has a yellow flag law, but although police were alerted that the Maine shooter could “snap and commit a mass shooting” in September, according to CNN, no yellow flag action was pursued.
The thing was, as a reservist, the Lewiston shooter wasn’t somehow granted immunity due to his military status. There was nothing to bar the state from evaluating him and taking action according to the laws of Maine.
So why does this suddenly seem necessary?
The truth is that I haven’t seen where military personnel are somehow exempt from red flag laws in whatever state they happen to be in, though I’d imagine living on base might provide some sort of protection. Many servicemembers live in town, though, so I can’t imagine the authorities would have any difficulty there.
So what gives? Why even make a proposal like this?
Because Maine saw a mass shooting and already had a pretty leftward lean, so that means the pressure is on for their lawmakers to do stuff to look like they’re taking the issue seriously.
For Collins, this is what she’s come up with. It’s the best hope she has of straddling the line between being a Republican and not losing her base and not alienating the Maine electorate in general.
Lewiston rattled the state. There’s no doubt about that.
Yet passing a gun control law for the sake of passing it–and thereby lending some kind of congressional credence to the idea that red flag laws actually accomplish something–isn’t the answer.
Yes, this measure, if it ever happens, is a prime example of passing a law to make a show versus doing something of substance, which is probably better in a case like this than actually creating gun control laws like Collins’ fellow senator from Maine is trying, but still isn’t actually useful.
What we need is some research that doesn’t try to focus on the guns, gun control, or red flag laws but instead looks at why people do things like this.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any will anywhere to do just that.