By David S. Petolicchio
Red Flag Laws have become the center of recent gun control debates following a series of mass shootings where the individuals involved apparently exhibited signs of potential violence in advance. The premise surrounding red flag laws is to empower law enforcement, whether it be local, state, or federal, to be able to recognize and act on warning signs. Notoriously, however, red flag laws are criticized for being easily abused and destructive to the principles of “innocent until proven guilty”. Not only do these laws leave a great deal open ended, but they often vary by definition from state to state.
The New York Times attempted to define Red Flag Laws as the following:
“They are state laws that authorize courts to issue a special type of protection order, allowing the police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or to others. Often, the request for the order will come from relatives or friends concerned about a loved one who owns one or more guns and has expressed suicidal thoughts or discussed shooting people. The authorities may also request an order. How long the guns are taken away under these “extreme risk protection orders” depends on the circumstances, and can usually be extended only after another court hearing. The orders also bar the person they cover from purchasing guns.”(1)
The most substantial take away from this description is that Red flag laws deprive American citizens of their fundamental right to bear arms BEFORE going through proper due process procedures. Essentially, these laws are operating from a position of “guilty until proven innocent” which directly conflicts with the existing justice system that is designed around the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof being on the prosecution. These laws allow for the seizure of weapons without a trial and without advanced notice, essentially confiscating guns off of little more than complaints by friends or family.
This premise is incredibly dangerous as it leaves the door wide open for abuse since the target of Red Flag Laws must prove their innocence, while being deprived of fundamental rights whereas the family or friend that reported them has no burden of proof beyond their word. It clearly creates a burden on gun owners to have to defend themselves from arbitrary claims while anyone seeking a “Protection Order” enjoys the ability to ruin lives and the right to self-defense without the necessity of concrete proof.
Red Flag laws are currently being promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike, with little to no regard for the rights of the defendant. In addition to this, bureaucrats from our nation’s capital will undoubtedly use this opportunity to further stomp on the inherent right to bear arms, a right no just government as any business restricting. The most perilous of endeavors is to trust power hungry politicians with the responsibility of writing and applying such potentially tyrannical laws.
In these emotional and often irrational times, it is imperative to recognize the fundamental principle that lead to the adoption of the second amendment in the first place. The primary reason we enjoy the right to bear arms is for the purpose of maintaining and defending liberty from foreign and domestic threats alike, including our own government if it became an enemy of the people. For this reason, any regulation proposed by the government, is antithetical to our enjoyment and rightful exercise of the Second Amendment. To allow potential foes to regulate and restrict our fundamental rights to resist them, is the epitome of irrationality and would lead to the disaster of our liberty, extending beyond merely the Second Amendment. Give a politician an inch, and they will take a mile.