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Red Flag Laws, Proceed Cautiously 

August 28, 2019
Galveston County Daily News

“Red Flag” laws have been in the news lately.  So what are they? They’re measures that would allow family members, neighbors, teachers, etc. to ask for a hearing on whether a person should have their right to have a firearm revoked; the goal being to identify individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others.  At first blush this sounds good, but dig a little deeper.

What if a neighbor who has a grudge against a person asks the government to conduct a hearing?  Even if the allegations are unfounded the financial and emotional toll of mounting a defense will be overwhelming.  The opportunities for misuse and abuse should be concerning.  And ask yourself whether attempting to take a gun from a person who is willing to commit crimes will actually stop such a person from getting one.  

The Supreme Court has ruled that the right to bear arms is in the highest category of liberty recognized in law; at the same level as the freedoms of speech, religion, and the press.  Our founding fathers recognized the right to bear arms wasn’t bestowed by the government, it pre-existed government and if the government can bestow a right it can also take it away. 

The second amendment provides the same level of protection of gun ownership to  the good guys and the potentially bad.  It wasn’t written to protect hunters;  but to protect citizens against a tyrannical government and its agents.  Read the Declaration of Independence, it lays out what they were thinking.

A person can think bad things and even talk about them, but until they actually act on them, their thinking and talk is constitutionally protected.   That doesn’t mean we agree with them, or even like it – most don’t – but protecting these rights is the price of freedom.

According to retired judge Andrew Napolitano, “red flag” laws -- that permit the police or courts to seize guns from those who are deemed dangerous -- are unconstitutional.    He contends the presumption of innocence and the due process requirement of demonstrable fault are preconditions to any punishment or sanction.  If he’s right, what’s the basis upon which we can curtail a person’s liberty because of what might happen in the future or what the person might do?  Opening the door to allow the confiscation of weapons on the premise of what might happen could be a dangerous power to give government.

But this still leaves us with issue of how do we stop gun violence.  Former chair of the Democrat National Committee, Donna Brazile got it right when she said the problem is the American culture today. She urged Americans to “set a tone for our kids” so they are clear on what values we share as Americans.   Those values should include protecting our liberties while being responsible citizens; not only with weapons but in what we say and think, and in how we act.

But in any case we should proceed cautiously IF we’re to consider enacting “red flag” laws.

Bill Sargent lives in Galveston, is a Navy veteran,
and worked on Capitol Hill for over twenty years

 

 
 
 

 

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