The danger of “red flag” laws

Back in 2006, an eighth grader at Warren Township Schools in Indianapolis accidentally brought a pocket knife to school. As soon as he realized his mistake, he did the honest and honorable thing and turned the tool into the principal… and was then suspended for ten days. This model student even faced expulsion from school. In addition to being absurdly excessive, this behavior encourages dishonesty.

This is why, unlike David French, I am very skeptical of so-called “red flag” laws where someone can have his guns taken away if he is seen as a threat. But that is not the only potential problem with these laws.

Consider this example: In an acrimonious divorce, a woman leaves an abusive husband. She has a gun for self-defense, so he goes to the police and says that he worries that she is a danger to those around her. Her guns are confiscated, so she has no way to defend herself when he comes to her home to kill her.

I could list many more examples where someone who is not a danger could have his rights unjustly violated or could even be made vulnerable to violent crime by a “red flag” law. In order for laws like this to work, our culture needs a lot more social capital than we have right now. There is way too much potential for abuse, unless the laws are written in an extremely narrow way.

The other problem with “red flag” laws (or gun violence restraining orders) is that they turn due process upside down. Your property is taken, without proving that you actually are a danger to anyone. While French’s idea that a hearing would be held within 72 hours sounds nice, does anyone really believe that our backlogged court system would be able to schedule a hearing within three days of the guns being taken – especially given this is something that would be added on to that backlogged system? Nope!

In theory, “red flag” laws are be something that could prevent violence. But we do not live in a theoretical world. Every single time we pass a law, we have to assume that it will be abused. Unless there are extremely strong protections against that abuse, I cannot support “red flag” laws.