After mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the Left in America is calling for stricter gun control legislation. Of concern, however, Republicans in Congress and the Republican governor of Ohio are now also voicing support for ‘Red Flag’ laws.
‘Red Flag’ Laws Explained
For those not in the know, ‘Red Flag’ laws have been making the rounds across the U.S. They have passed in 18 states so far, according to CBS News. Those states are as follows.
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
The premise of this new wave of legislation is that law enforcement needs to be able to seize firearms from people considered “a danger to themselves or others.”
Report persons who are known to be, or even suspected to be mentally ill or psychologically unstable. Thereafter, accusations will be turned into speedy confiscatory intervention.
There are significant problems with the premise of this legislation, however. For instance, who is defining and interpreting the terms and phrases?
Further, the idea of ‘Red Flag’ laws is that firearms should be seized from the ostensibly innocent before they commit a crime.
In theory, who could reasonably object to the prevention of violent crime?
Violent crimes, especially mass shootings, cause a lot of human suffering. Our natural desire is to avoid suffering if we can help it, both as individuals and groups. And the prevention of human suffering is generally a good thing.
Yet the assumption that human suffering can be wholly avoided if we just pass strict enough laws is tragically naive. Such naivety is the stuff dystopian novels and totalitarian regimes are made of.
Reality is made of different stuff.
The Perils of Pre-Crime
I think here of the 2002 sci fi film ‘Minority Report,’ directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise as Chief John Anderton. In it, the police of the future can arrest murderers before they murder. This they do based on the prophetic dreams of special humans called Pre-Cogs hooked up to massive, highly advanced computers. Yet when Anderton, head of the law enforcement agency Precrime, is himself accused of a future murder, he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And the hunter becomes the hunted.
Spoiler alert! It ends up that Anderton has been framed. The “evidence” against him was fabricated by someone trying to get him out of the way. A false prophecy planted in the Pre-Cog was used to pre-emptively convict him.
Now back to our present reality. How would you defend yourself from allegations of some serious wrongdoing you may in the future commit?
And is not the premise of so-called ‘Red Flag’ laws the very definition of prejudice? Is this not “pre-justice”? And, if so, how can it actually be just?
Trump Support As Mental Illness?
Now consider the September 2017 article published by Psychology Today titled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” It was a sequel to an earlier article titled “The Elephant in the Room: It’s time we talked openly about Donald Trump’s mental health.”
From the article:
“One comment was from Hal Brown, MSW, a colleague of John Gartner, Ph.D., whom we mentioned in the post. John is the founder of Duty to Warn, an organization intent on warning our country that we are in dire trouble due to our president’s mental instability. More than 60,000 mental health professionals have signed John’s petition, which states:
“We, the undersigned mental health professionals, believe in our professional judgment that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States. And we respectfully request he be removed from office, according to article 4 of the 25th amendment to the Constitution, which states that the president will be replaced if he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’”
Did you catch that? Over 60,000 mental health professionals signed a petition officially asking that President Trump be removed from office. This despite Section 7 of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics, alternatively known as “The Goldwater Rule.”
This produces in me concern for the ethics and objectivity of many American mental health professionals.
Now I ask you. If over 60,000 mental health professionals will sign their names to a petition to remove a duly elected president without ever having conducted an examination, in violation of commonly accepted ethical norms, how can we trust that due process will be given to common citizens?
The short answer is that we cannot.
And so far we have said nothing of the presumption of innocence.
“The right to keep and bear arms” is undeniably protected under the United States Constitution. The unjust deprivation, revocation, or denial of one’s right to keep and bear arms is, therefore, itself an injury. It is a damage against the person accused if indeed they have committed no crime.
Imagine having your driver’s license revoked because someone thought you might get into an accident.
And what would we make of someone being arrested and thrown in jail because they might someday rob a convenience store?
For a more playful example, think back to your teenage years. Imagine being preemptively grounded because your parents thought you might not be home by curfew.
Proponents of ‘Red Flag’ laws say that the government should seize firearms from any persons who might someday commit violent crimes. If that is the case, little to nothing prevents all private firearms from being seized.
Indeed, the rubric is that someone is deemed “a danger to themselves or others.” But criteria so broad could be cited to justify seizing all private firearms.
This is because the inherent nature of operable firearms is that they are dangerous. Their danger is inherent to the design. Otherwise, I would derive no security reaching for a firearm when a burglar broke into my home at midnight.
And if firearms were not deadly, I would not take firearms with me when I go hunting. A camera should be rather more useful, since then at least I would come away from a hunt with something to show for my hiking around the wilderness.
Anyone who owns a firearm and the proper ammunition for it is more dangerous than they otherwise would be. And that is largely the point of owning firearms.
What is more, the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights were neither written nor signed by men unfamiliar with this fact. On the contrary, the entire point of their having enshrined constitutional protections for the right to keep and bear arms was so that the citizens of this nation would be free to be dangerous.
And indeed, not only are firearms inherently dangerous. So too is liberty. But I should say that unjust deprivation of liberty is far more dangerous.