Maine's 'Red Flag' Proposal Back From the Dead

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Red flag laws are stupid. Earlier today, I touched on a prime example of just why they're stupid.

In Maine, they don't have one. They have what's termed a "yellow flag law," which basically just means that the only people who can file for an order that would disarm someone are people who actually know something about mental illness.


Unfortunately, those people can sometimes drop the ball. That's what happened with the Lewiston killer. They missed the danger, didn't file for the order, and he wasn't disarmed.

Not that it would have worked as designed even if they had, necessarily.

But now, as Maine considers numerous bits of gun control, it seems the red flag measures--one that had been dismissed previously--is back from the dead.

Maine lawmakers racing toward adjournment are going to consider a so-called “red flag” law allowing family members to petition a judge for temporary removal of guns, thanks to an 11th-hour bill introduced by the house leader.

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, a Democrat, said it’s important to reconsider the previously rejected proposal after a gunman killed 18 people last fall amid signs of deteriorating mental health. A competing bill by the Democratic governor would strengthen the state's existing crisis intervention tool, a so-called “yellow flag” law.

The new proposal, introduced three weeks before lawmakers adjourn, would allow family members to go directly to a judge to request that someone's guns be removed during a psychiatric crisis.

The state's current law requires police to start the process by taking someone into protective custody, initiating a case that eventually ends up before a judge. It went into effect in 2020 as a compromise, aimed at simplifying the process by letting police handle it, and an independent commission said it should've been used with the Lewiston gunman.

The speaker acknowledged the 11th-hour nature of her proposal but said her constituents have demanded it.

“This bill will ensure that those people who are a risk to themselves and others can receive the help they need, while preventing senseless acts of violence," Talbott Ross said in a statement.


You can believe as much or as little of that as you want.

The truth is that the 11th-hour introduction of the bill is probably more about limiting debate and testimony before voting on it. The truth is that it's not difficult to argue against red flag laws. A lot of people like the idea of taking guns from dangerous people, but the nuts and bolts of such laws bother a lot of folks. After all, you're taking guns from people who haven't been proven to be dangerous and often times, actually aren't.

But if you can limit the discussion, there's less chance of this popping up and derailing the red flag effort.

For what it's worth, Gov. Janet Mills isn't exactly on board with a red flag law. Instead, she wants to streamline Maine's yellow flag measure, making it easier to use in cases where it's warranted, which I still don't like but is far better than what Ross is pushing here and now.

We'll have to wait and see just how things shake out on this one.

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