SAN DIEGO, CA — Since January, states with so-called “red flag” laws have begun confiscating firearms from individuals they consider “dangerous”.
Within the last two months, police officials in California have seized guns from individuals they deemed an immediate threat, among them, a 38-year-old man who they say had threatened his wife after an incidence of domestic violence, a 23-year-old ex-Marine who, authorities claim, had developed paranoia and a 39-year-old man who was reported by neighbors for firing his weapon in his own backyard.
The move toward seizing guns has reached a fever pitch in the wake of such high profile mass shootings as the Las Vegas massacre and Parkland, Florida high school shooting and, experts say, it’s only the beginning.
Red flag laws, which are on the books in California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington State, allow law enforcement officials to remove guns from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous. Similar measures are being considered in more than a dozen additional states including Hawaii and Pennsylvania.
“The reason I like gun violence restraining orders as an option is that we can use them even if the person hasn’t been convicted of a crime,” Mara W. Elliott, the San Diego city attorney, told The New York Times (https://tinyurl.com/y85sc9eb). But many Republicans oppose the new laws, Many Republicans oppose red flag laws and argue that a judge’s order to seize a person’s weapon may violate Second Amendment rights when no crime has been committed.
In a statement on its website shortly after Oregon passed the new law, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action called it a violation of due process.
“Yesterday, Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 719A. Based on a California law enacted in 2014, SB 719A will create a so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) that could be obtained by a law enforcement officer, family member, or household member in an ex parte hearing to deprive someone of their Second Amendment rights without due process of the law,” the statement reads (https://tinyurl.com/yckwha9j).
“By allowing a law enforcement officer, family member, or household member to seek the ERPO, SB 719A will allow people who are not mental health professionals, who may be mistaken, and who may only have minimal contact with the respondent to file a petition with the court and testify on the respondent’s state of mind. This ex parte order, which strips the accused of their Second Amendment rights, will be issued by a judge based on the brief statement of the petitioner. The accused will not be afforded the chance to appear in court to defend themselves against the allegations when the ERPO is issued. These orders may be issued without any allegations of criminal behavior,” the statement continues.
Ramesh Ponnuru, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group, says that more laws that restrict the rights of those not convicted of a crime, is not the answer.
“This is a country with hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, and that fact imposes real constraints on what policy can achieve and on what kind of policy makes sense,” said Ponnuru. No one, Ponnuru added, should expect any one law to fix everything. “Realism is the right attitude,” he said.
Brad Banks, an Indianapolis criminal law attorney at Banks & Brower, says in his state, the law appears to be working.
“It’s fair and balanced and addresses the immediate need of protecting people with significant mental impairment but also has safeguards for the court to review” whether an individual should have the firearms returned, Banks told the Indy Star (https://tinyurl.com/y73qbuuc).
During a roundtable meeting at the White House this week, President Donald Trump met with state leaders and gun victims to discuss the effectiveness of such laws and to determine what steps need to be taken to prevent further mass shootings.