Number of “Red Flag” States that can Confiscate Guns without Due Process has Doubled Since the Parkland Shooting
On Monday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a “red flag” measure into law, making it legal for police officers to confiscate firearms from individuals deemed to be dangerous by a judge. Now, Illinois has become the eighth state to adopt this law since the Parkland shooting, increasing the number of so-called “red flag” states to thirteen.
Following the Parkland shooting, laws enabling the legal confiscation of firearms without due process from individuals deemed to be a threat gained a lot of traction among the gun-control crowd and even enjoyed the support of some Republican politicians, including President Trump.
Supporters of these laws argue that they will enable police officers, family members, and other people who may be aware of a threat to report an individual to a judge and petition that their firearms be removed from them until such a time as they can prove that they are not a threat.
While the measure seems understandable enough on the surface to garner support even among those who typically defend Second Amendment rights, its deeper implications are concerning.
American citizens are afforded all of their Constitutional rights unless they are proven guilty of a crime in a court of law, at which point some of those rights (such as the right to bear arms and protection against warrantless search and seizure) may be stripped away from them.
The problem with “red flag” laws is that the individual in question is not given their day in court before their Constitutional rights are taken away from them. Rather, the decision is made by a judge who is only able to hear one side of the story.
So far, there have only been a handful of cases where these “red flag” laws have been put into action, and most of them seem justifiable in the sense that the individuals who had their firearms taken away did indeed seem to be a serious threat to the safety of themselves and others. Nevertheless, the structure of these laws leaves the door open for serious and dangerous violations of Constitutional rights.
Imagine, for example, that an individual is falsely accused of being a threat by someone who has a grudge against them. They could then present false evidence before a judge without giving their target the opportunity to counter it, stripping away their Second Amendment rights and their ability to defend themselves.
In the end, it is not up to family members, police officers, and other associates to decide whether or not someone should be in the possession of firearms. It’s not even up to the court unless that person has been found guilty of a felony crime. States enacting “red flag” laws, however, give the courts and accusing indi“viduals the power to strip away Second Amendment rights without due process, creating an incredibly slippery slope.
While “red flag” laws have garnered plenty of support from high profile politicians, they’ve also been met with some opposition. The NRA initially came out as neutral on “red flag” laws before changing to oppose them, saying that they would only support such measures if the individual in question was given a chance to defend themselves in court before their firearms were removed from them rather than after.
The American Civil Liberties Union also came out against “red flag” laws, rightfully saying that Constitutional rights could be violated if restraining orders on firearms were issued too freely.
The problem of firearm restraining order being issued too freely is no doubt the core issue with “red flag” laws. Under the current law, an American citizen’s right to bear arms is very clear-cut – if they are not a convicted felon, declared mentally unfit, or a fugitive from the law then they have a right to possess firearms.
Under “red flag” laws, though, the issue is not nearly as straightforward, and it becomes up to the discretion of a judge to determine whether or not an individual should be granted Second Amendment rights. There is no standard for what defines a “dangerous person” and no limit on the power for courts to take away the firearms of anyone they choose for any reason at all.
No other Constitutional rights are treated in this manner. A person cannot have their right to vote stripped away because the courts decide they are not educated enough on the issues, nor can they have their First Amendment rights taken away because they make inflammatory comments. Second Amendment rights should be no different.
~ National Gun Network