A Red Flag for “Red Flag” Laws

Some version of this, as Paul Edward Parker reports it for the Providence Journal, is worth considering:

The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association on Tuesday voted unanimously to ask the General Assembly to pass a law to help keep guns out of the hands of people who demonstrate they are a risk to public safety. …

Under a so-called “red flag” law, the police could obtain a court order preventing people from having guns if they are a danger to themselves or others.

However, caution is critical, because this is dangerous territory for our civil rights.  Any such policy needs explicit guidelines for what counts as evidence and how the threshold is to be determined, preferably with some sort of validation outside of government (say a psychiatrist).  Otherwise, the government could confiscate weapons from people who simply dissent from the ruling worldview.

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Indeed, one could imagine guns’ being confiscated because people in government know a person will be in a position that might make weaponry more problematic… like politically motivated pre-dawn raids, as in Michigan, or some sort of activists’ action against the person.  Imagine if police know somebody will be soon targeted like FCC commissioner Ajit Pai when the net neutrality issue was boiling; law enforcement might take away any weapons he might have to make sure nothing gets out of hand.  Or on the other side, if somebody is known to be an activist, the government  might take his or her weapons away.

It is insufficient for anybody currently in office to profess that such a thing will never happen; Rhode Islanders should demand clear standards and laws for any such legislation.  Look even to the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association’s statement.  An association for law-enforcement leaders should not contain language following the pattern of “we respect the Second Amendment, but…”

The Second Amendment isn’t in place as a sort of vague principle to be “respected.”  It’s a fundamental law of the land.  Government agents shouldn’t profess “respect” for it so much as pledge to “adhere” to it.

In this case, that means taking every conceivable step to ensure that a “red flag” policy cannot possibly infringe on our right to bear arms.

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