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Sheriff Said He Wouldn't Enforce Red Flag Law. Now He's Using It.

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

When red flag laws come up for debate, there are often some law enforcement who come out to talk about how the measures are unconstitutional. Many will say they won't enforce such orders because of their oath to uphold the Constitution.

I respect this because even if a red flag law might be a useful tool for law enforcement, right is right and wrong is wrong.

What I don't respect is hypocrisy and lies.

If you say you're not going to enforce such an order, you damn well shouldn't be using the law should it pass.

That's precisely what one Michigan sheriff is accused of doing.

A Michigan sheriff who last year declared he would not enforce the state's new “red flag” gun law is among authorities using the statute to confiscate weapons, according to records obtained by Bridge Michigan.

The reversal by Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy points to the practical realities of law enforcement in the wake of a heated political debate over the law, which allows individuals to petition judges to confiscate guns from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others.

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In an April 2023 Facebook video posted weeks before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the gun safety measure into law, Murphy said he didn’t believe extreme risk protection orders were constitutional, panning the effort as “trying to fix societies’ ills with legislation that’s never worked.” 

The next day, members of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners declared their jurisdiction a “Constitutional County,” vowing to push back as much as they could against the pending laws.

That resolution urged Murphy and the county prosecutor to use their discretion when deciding to enforce any law "that is contrary to the rights established" by the U.S. or Michigan constitutions. 

But one year later, records show Murphy's office was one of the first in Livingston County to use an “extreme risk protection order” to confiscate weapons from a man undergoing what a deputy called a mental health crisis.

Now, I get why Murphy's office might have sought an ERPO for this particular individual. He was in his backyard drinking, and crying, as well as walking around with a pistol in his hand. When taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, he threatened violence.

Of course, that's when you use a 72-hour hold and keep him there longer based on his outbursts and threats rather than just take guns away and hope that makes everything better.

I should clarify. I'd get it if Murphy hadn't been so adamantly against the state's red flag law. If he'd been quiet, I wouldn't be as bothered as I am now.

It would still be wrong, but at least it wouldn't be rank hypocrisy.

There's what's legal and what's right. A lot of time, those two go hand-in-hand and when they do, life is great.

But sometimes, what's legal isn't what's right and what's right isn't necessarily what's legal. Thankfully, most of the time, the latter isn't the case, but the former is true more times than I care to recall, which is the problem here.

Murphy and his deputies could most definitely request an ERPO on this guy. That was perfectly legal under current Michigan law.

It wasn't right and Murphy knows it. He knows it wasn't right because he spoke against the bill when it was under debate. 

As such, there's no way he should get a pass on this. No sheriff who speaks out against red flag laws should get a pass for using them. It's bad enough when one is supportive of them and then uses it, but at least you knew that was coming.

This? This is unacceptable in my not-so-humble opinion.

Then again, this is Michigan. I'm not sure what I can really expect anymore from there.