We have entered a new era in the fight for our 1st and 2nd amendment rights. Several states have successfully enacted “red flag” laws that provide a pseudo-legal framework allowing local law enforcement to confiscate a person’s firearms based on various criteria that makes that person appear to be a threat to public safety. The Florida law, called the Risk Protection Act, was created shortly after the Parkland school shooting. And according to ABC news, the state has so far confiscated firearms from 467 persons in Florida who have not committed a crime.
“I think we’re doing this because it makes us feel safer,” said attorney Kendra Parris, critical of the new law. “What’s wrong with that,” asked reporter Katie LaGrone. “It violates the constitution,” Parris said. She believes after four-and-a-half months, Florida’s version of the ‘red flag” law as its also known is starting to reveal some disturbing grey areas, specifically among individuals who don’t have histories of violence or mental illness. “These are individuals who are often exercising their first amendment rights online, who are protecting constitutionally protected speech online,” she said. “Maybe it was odious, maybe people didn’t like it but they were hit with the risk protection order because of it.”
These red flag laws generally indicate that authorities have the power to confiscate firearms based on complaints from 3rd parties, mental health issues, or incriminating posts on social media among other reasons, which make the individual in question appear to be a threat. And what constitutes a threat is unclear.
Aside from being an obvious infringement on the right to keep and bear arms, these types of laws obviously stifle a person’s ability to speak freely and exercise their first amendment rights. It’s a person’s interactions in public and private that create the basis for judgment in these situations. Largely due to the inflammatory, biased and often non-factual programming that passes for news these days our society has become incredibly polarized. So if one makes his or her opinions known, it’s not just a possibility but it’s a likelihood that someone who hears it will be offended. And even if one is only casually paying attention to the news, it has become painfully obvious in the last few years that law enforcement at all levels is susceptible to political bias. Under such conditions its clear that this type of law is likely to be abused by authorities.
Explaining the issue further, the Attorney quoted by ABC news described how such laws give law enforcement authorities sweeping power to take guns from people who are not an imminent threat. This is truly disturbing.
Parris thinks the law needs to be narrowed down to only people with proof of gun ownership or those who have histories of attempting to purchase one. In addition, she believes the apparent threats posed by respondents in these cases needs to be better defined to include an “imminent” threat. “As it’s written now the harm can be in 6 months or maybe in a year this person will go crazy, we don’t know but out of an abundance of caution we need to get this risk protection in place,” she said.
It appears here that the attorney is paraphrasing what reasoning supporting broad and preemptive action that law enforcement might use to justify their actions as she discusses “an abundance of caution.”
These onerous laws completely abandon the idea of due process. How is the individual to dispute the filing of a risk protection order against them? They’re required to turn in their firearms and then fight the courts and government officials to get back their personal property. Adding insult to injury, this particular property is expressly protected by the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When the government is able to convince a majority of its constituents that its actions are “legal” whether moral or not, it has reached the edge of a very slippery slope.
As reported, the slide is beginning in several states, especially Florida. The report indicated that some of the county sheriff’s offices have created special teams to actively search for “offenders” and file risk protection orders against them. Pinellas county has a five man team dedicated to this unconstitutional activity full-time. Again this is truly alarming. The jobs of these five people are dedicated solely to taking people’s guns away. The public at large in Florida have unwittingly via their legislature created a perverse incentive for these five officers (and others in similar jobs at other counties sheriff’s offices). If they don’t find “offenders” then what reason do they have for having a job?
Considering the obvious trend in our governments at all levels towards political bias and corruption, we find these developments very disturbing. If you are living in a state that is still somewhat free, we urge you to actively and vocally resist these “red flag” laws in your local legislatures before they are passed. This type of immoral legal framework is the type of thing that can easily be abused and expanded by nefarious individuals or factions if it is allowed to solidify over time as acceptable government behavior.