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Nate Jackson / April 2, 2019

Red Flags About ‘Red Flag’ Laws

If due process is protected, that’s one thing. The trouble is leftist contempt for our rights.

“Red flag” laws have become all the rage these days among those who want to do something — anything — to stop “gun violence.” Sometimes called Gun Violence Restraining Orders or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, these laws allow family, close friends, or coworkers to petition authorities to temporarily remove firearms from individuals they believe are a danger to themselves or others. Colorado is set to join the list of states enacting such laws.

If — and it’s a big IF — due-process rights are protected, we and other conservatives have acknowledged that, in concept, the idea has some merit because of how many red flags mass murderers tend to display. As our own Robin Smith wrote last year, such orders “empower individuals closest to a potential threat to intervene rather than waiting on layers of systems that … have failed.” National Review’s David French also argued last year, “The GVRO is consistent with and recognizes both the inherent right of self-defense and the inherent right of due process. It is not collective punishment. It is precisely targeted.”

In other words, rather than banning entire classes of guns or infringing on the rights of all citizens, focusing attention at potentially dangerous individuals is preferable, right?

The trouble is leftists have a way of distorting reality. In practice, these laws — as even President Donald Trump foolishly insisted last year — “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

The National Rifle Association too was initially open to the concept of court orders with a high legal threshold for removal of firearms, but said of the Colorado legislation, “Unchallenged statements made by a petitioner before a judge … would be sufficient for law enforcement to enter that person’s home and confiscate their private property.” Only after having their gun(s) confiscated would an individual be able to go to court and work to get them back. Think an aggrieved former lover won’t be first in line to stick it to their ex?

That is not protecting due process; it’s an outright attack on it, presuming guilt of someone who hasn’t even been charged with a crime, and then enacting preemptive punishment. That’s not the way to sensibly restrain people actually bent on doing harm.

In fact, some sheriffs are refusing to enforce such laws, adopting the “sanctuary” language of immigration law, but in this case to defend an actual constitutional right.

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