Red Flag Laws: Let’s Talk About Guns

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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The Discussion No One Wants to Have

I do not have kids, but I hope to someday. I can only imagine having the sex talk with them would be one of the most awkward things I will ever have to do. The reason it is uncomfortable is that you know your kids are eventually going to do something you do not want to think about, and talking to them about it is awkward. However, this is a conversation that every parent should have before their kids “learn about it on the streets.”

Gun violence is a people problem, not an object problem.

Oddly enough, mass shootings, mental health problems, and domestic violence are the same situation- they are a real problem, they are going to happen, and we do not want to think about them happening to a member of our family. The similarity goes beyond this in that as a country we do not want to think about these problems- we would instead chant slogans playing on emotion rather than facts dealing with the problem. This puzzle is why we are allowing the hate to continue in this country.

Defining Red Flag Laws

So, what is a Red Flag Law? A Red Flag law is any “law that allows legally assigned representatives of the state to examine a person as to whether they are a danger to themselves and others, and to take the necessary actions to neutralize that threat.” While I am sure Libertarian heads are exploding right now, most people in this country can agree that if a person is a threat to themselves or others, then they should receive the help they need.

The problem with Red Flag Laws is when we allow emotions to write them for us rather than logic. We now have the anti-gun lobby in the United States screaming from the rooftops that we need their version of “Red Flag Laws” to be safe, but their suggestion is trading one form of oppression for another. What we need is a discussion about the underlying issues leading to gun violence. It may shock people, but we can empower police to deal with this issue without sacrificing the rights of millions of Americans.

I hope, if you agree with my assessment, you will take a couple minutes out of your day to send this article to your friends, family, and representatives to push that we need common sense Red Flag Laws. They are overdue, and they do not necessarily mean what you think they mean.

Dealing With Mental Illness

This proposal has three parts. The first part is dealing with mental illness. The goal here is not to demonize people who have a disease. Like anyone with a condition, they need help. The goal within this proposal is to ensure that the community receives the protection that it needs, and the person with the mental illness gets the help that they need.

Therefore, the solution is simple- ensure law enforcement enforces the terroristic threat laws that are on the books and we can extend the definition of what is acceptable for probable cause to social media. This move does not impose more of a restriction on people; in fact, it merely allows police to use what is publicly visible to protect the community. If a police officer walks past a house and hears, “I am going to shoot up the mall,” she must inspect the situation. Shouldn’t the same be said for social media posts and emails (if the person they are sent to turns them in)?

Too often, law enforcement builds up a massive dossier on a person before they try to “prosecute the case.” This administrative bureaucracy is just allowing the problem to fester and get worse. When a mental question becomes visible on social media, in the workplace or conversation to the point that someone reports it, then if the report is credible, the police need to act on it. People need treatment, and if we can get them treatment before they do something drastic, then we should.

Dealing With Violence

The second part of this proposal is dealing with people with violent tendencies. If we see a person who is participating in domestic violence, showing videos of themselves being involved in fights or showing videos of them harming animals, then these are all things upon which the police can act. If they are showing signs to their friends or family that there is a danger (people with problems do many of these things in private), allow friends and family to report it. Then investigate it under current law. If it is a threat, then the person in question should have a psychological evaluation.

These are all elements under current law that we have protections for, but law enforcement cannot enforce. The state should prosecute domestic violence, whether or not one of the parties presses charges and domestic abusers should not have access to guns. Street fighting is a crime; if you do it and are bragging about it, it can be charged as assault and battery, which can remove your right to own guns. Animal abuse is a crime; if people are posting videos of themselves doing it, then they should be treated as criminals- once again losing their gun rights.

The Grey Area

The final prong of this three-prong attack on gun violence is the grey area. People need to be able to report activity that causes alarm. We have a system for looking at people who watch terrorist training videos all day, why don’t we have a process for looking at people who look at school shooting, mass murder or serial killer videos all day. While everyone has a right to their macabre tendencies, when loved ones feel that it is becoming dangerous, then there is a need for psychiatric evaluation (by an M.D.). This process is for the benefit of the person who is exhibiting hazardous activities.

As you can see, there is no talk of outright gun confiscation here. If a person is convicted or committed under any of these clauses, then they naturally lose their right to possess a firearm under current law. What is better is that most of this material is already part of the law, which means we need to enforce the law as it is written. Requirements like the Baker Act in Florida save many lives each year. We need to empower the system to treat the illness, not just try to mitigate the symptoms. Gun violence is a people problem, not an object problem. Let’s look to deal with people so that we can honestly treat the problem.

Red Flag Laws

Sample Bill

A Bill to Prevent Future Mass Shootings Through Proper Enforcement of Existing Laws

Be It Enacted By the Congress Here Assembled:

Section 1: The outbreak of violence in our nation cannot be blamed on an inanimate object, it is people carrying out these horrible attacks, and it is in treating people that we must find a solution to the problem. It has been shown, and we all have seen that violence is coming from deeply disturbed people. It is in treating these people that we form a more perfect union in society, giving them the treatment that they need to be productive members of our civil discourse. Thus should it be enacted by this Congress here assembled, we look to build a better future by getting help for those among us with problems which they cannot deal with on their own.

Section 2: Terms

Red Flag: The process of a person’s friends, family or other loved ones bringing violent or possibly violent activity to the attention of the police to be investigated under due process of the law;

Due Process of the Law: Examination and implementation of the actives under the current legal regime and the constitution of the United States.

Justifiable Seizure: The seizure of weapons, including firearms, knives and other dangerous instruments, from a person after they have had a lawfully adjudicated hearing in front of a magistrate or judge, to determine if they have violated the laws or, if due to their mental state, are a danger to themselves or others. Should the person be deemed unsafe to have the weapons, the weapons will be given to a friend or family member, living outside of the household, of the choice of the court or shall be sold at auction and the proceeds given to the owner who is deemed unable to own weapons (mental health confiscation) or to the victims of the crime (criminal act confiscation).

Temporary Restraint: When the police detain the weapons in a household due to an ongoing investigation. Police are responsible for the safety and storage of the weapons. Should the person be deemed unsafe to have the weapons, the weapons will be given to a friend or family member, living outside of the household, of the choice of the court or shall be sold at auction and the proceeds given to the owner who is deemed unable to own weapons (mental health confiscation) or to the victims of the crime (criminal act confiscation).

Lobbying Organizations: Any group which receives or spends money to lobby American or foreign politicians on the law-making process.

Section 3: This Bill Shall Be Overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, and Firearms with the assistance of the Department of Justice. Any state which seeks to participate in this program will be able to use a database to be compiled by the ATF in cooperation with the FBI which stores the fingerprints, information and other identifying information of persons convicted of any felony in the state. This information will be made available to all gun stores and licensed firearms dealers, along with dealers of chemicals known to be restricted in the United States. States that do not participate may not prohibit police departments within municipalities from participating in the program.

Section 4: Be It Enacted that:

Any Firearm purchased by an individual in the United States from a seller who sells more than ten firearms in any 12 months must have a background check conducted by the FBI, ATF or a designee of the government.

No person who has a felony on their record can possess a firearm.

No person who has been committed for mental illness can possess a firearm for ten years after they have been released, and they may possess a firearm after receiving an evaluation from three non-affiliated psychiatrists stating that they have been rehabilitated.

State Firearm Licenses are recognized across state lines if:

They are renewed on a bi-annual basis

The state in question participates in the FBI/ATF program mentioned in §5&6;

The state in question requires a firearm safety course (hunter’s safety courses are sufficient);

The states have an active registry of felony convictions and review the felony convictions within §to revoke the permit of persons who violate the law;

The States have an active registry of people committed to public and private medical institutions and participate in §5&6 to revoke the permits of people who are committed.

The creation of a National Registry: this bill empowers the ATF, in collaboration with the FBI, to create a registry of all persons convicted of crimes at the federal, state or local level that reach the level of a felony. This registry will report all federal crimes, including hate crimes, and will record the features, name, address, identification numbers, fingerprints and DNA of anyone convicted of a felony. States will have the ability to contribute to this database on the grounds that ALL convictions must be reported (even those sealed under the age of 18). All licensed gun dealers, police stations and courthouses (for the private transfer of more than ten guns a year) will have access to

this database. It will be funded by §7.

The registries created by this bill shall provide instant confirmation of a person’s identity through a waterfall process of name, identifying information, fingerprint, and if needed DNA. If a DNA test is needed, the person will be directed to the nearest facility. All scans are to be within a reasonable amount of time for the computer to scan through the fingerprint registry.

The creation of a national registry of those who have been committed: this bill empowers the ATF, in collaboration with the FBI, to create a registry of all persons committed due to mental instability. This registry will include all people who are involuntarily committed for more than 72 hours, people who are involuntarily committed for less than 72 hours whom the psychologist deems, by avadavat, are a danger to themselves and others, and persons who have committed themselves more than three times in a 10 year period and will record the features, name, address, identification numbers, fingerprints and DNA of anyone convicted of a felony. States will have the ability to contribute to this database on the grounds that ALL convictions must be reported (even those sealed under the age of 18). All licensed gun dealers, police stations and courthouses (for the private transfer of more than ten guns a year) will have access to this database. It will be funded by §7.

This bill will be funded by a tax on the following goods:

A tax of 12% on all videos, movies, theater tickets or other forms of visual non-participatory media with a rating denotation for violence;

A tax of 2% on all firearms and ammunition;

A tax of 25% on all music, talk or other audio CD that carry the parental advisory warning or something similar;

A tax of 10% on all video games rated Mature and limited games rated Teen (for violence) or similar rating systems;

A tax of 17% of all funds received by PACs, Super PACs, Lobbying organizations and similar groups.

Section 5: This bill shall go into effect at the end of the calendar year in which it was passed. The FBI/ATF registries in §5&6 must be in effect within eight months of the effective date of this bill. Federal Firearms dealers must join in accessing this system within two months of the system being operational.

Section 6: Any funds needed to implement this law shall come from the general fund unless specified other places in this bill. All funds that are not designated to go to a specific place shall go into the general fund. All funds specified in this bill to be created shall be created before the end of the calendar year in which this law is signed into law, passes over a veto or passes into law via time passage;

Section 7: All Laws, civil or common that are in conflict with this law are hereby null and void.

Entered for Debate by:____________________________________________

Author Profile

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.