Trending its way through the United States and touted as an answer to the “not one more time” demand, “red flag” legislation provides a dangerous solution to a misdiagnosed problem.
So, why all the hype?
Americans are still reeling from the horrifying venue shootings this year. They want answers — and they want action. Creative minds have responded with a flood of ideas intended to make us feel safer.
One of these ideas, the red flag concept, would remove firearms from those who have not committed any crime but are thought to be a “dangerous behavior risk” for the future.
Unfortunately, this concept is based on a false premise and faulty logic. Its misuse of the judicial system should be enough to raise your red flags even if guns aren’t your thing.
Current Texas law, while imperfect, still upholds two important tenets. First, a person may not be separated from his firearms unless there’s evidence he is mentally incompetent or he has already broken the law. Second, in the former scenario, the person is taken off the streets for treatment — not left to obtain guns illegally or find other weapons of choice.
Red flag laws — which should be better known as gun confiscation orders — deviate on both points.
If a person is truly so dangerous that he must be separated from his firearms, it’s illogical to still leave him active in society. Removing firearms does not stop violence; Austin has seen tragic deaths from cars and bombs. People who want to hurt others — or themselves — will find a tool.
Worse yet, gun confiscation orders are suggesting we take away an individual’s constitutional right without probable cause of a crime having been committed — much less conviction of a crime.
It’s absurd to take away a Constitutional right by predicting future action. What in the Bill of Rights is so fragile that a judge can remove it by playing “thought police,” claiming that you might misuse it in the future?
Another concern is the government’s inability to catalog individuals who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. The national background check system — the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — is one such example of catastrophic failure. It gives a 95 percent false-positive rate; many who are adversely affected are minorities.
Minorities are disproportionately harmed by anti-weapons laws. Law enforcement uses such laws to unfairly target minorities for stops, searches, and seizures. I have no doubt that gun confiscation orders would open the door to even worse racial stereotyping. Peaceful, law-abiding citizens could be forced to defend themselves in a court of law against an accuser who thought they were dangerous just because of their ethnic background.
Fortunately, most of the states who’ve considered this dangerous red flag legislation have decided against it. Texans concur. At a recent State Senate interim hearing to study the concept, over two-thirds of the witnesses stood opposed.
Gun confiscation orders ultimately fail to achieve their goal because they’re based on the false premise that we can stop evil from happening. They buy into the idea that it’s possible to keep weapons away from determined individuals — and they leave the assumed future perpetrator defenseless.
We’ll never stop people from being criminals. But if we want to stop the threat as quickly as possible and save more lives, the real solution is to end “gun-free” zones. After all, 97.3 percent of mass shootings from 1950 through April 2018 occurred in places where guns weren’t allowed. The perpetrators didn’t seem to mind breaking the law.
Over 200 of Texas’ 1,031 school districts have adopted civilian gun carry as a viable answer to make our kids safer. This solution offers greater assurance of physical protection while upholding our basic freedoms.
“Red Flag” laws, on the other hand, sacrifice liberty in exchange for a pretense of security.
Malone is the Texas director of Gun Owners of America.