on red flag laws

Shortly after the shootings in Parkland, Florida, one second amendment supporter with the name Alex Plitsas wrote and had published an essay on the topic of reforms to help prevent any similar such shootings. The essay includes in the title, “A Gun Violence Reduction Act.” The essays suggests that it offers a framework for future legislation.

This essay consists of proposed changes in six areas.

Unfortunately, the essay by Plitsas by intention or negligence avoids directly facing one of the largest issues raised by the Parkland shootings. That question is what to think of so-called “red flag” or extreme risk protection order laws. For the sake of discussion, “red flag” laws and extreme risk protection order laws shall be used interchangeably.

Red flag laws exist in 5 states and are being proposed in many more, given the events of Parkland. Such a law is included in the proposals of NRA supporter Rick Scott and Florida governor. However, a variety of other conservatives have opposed the red flag laws, using their platforms on TV, radio or by website. Among the opponents of the red flag laws are the NRA and it appears that Tucker Carlson has argued against them, or at least questioned them, in his show on foxnews. Various others TV and radio show hosts could be included among the opponents of the red flag laws.

Other conservatives have supported red flag laws, either directly, or indirectly, by describing what they believe a good law ought to do. As a result of the controversy, red flag laws have directly entered the conversation on TV, radio and on website publishing, among conservatives.

The red flag laws–as they are found in every state to have passed such a law–the law recognizes that certain behaviors on the part of some people are indicia of danger–even if those indicia do not constitute or have not yet led to a felony conviction.

In his suggested Gun Violence Protection Act, Plitsas proposes his version of a red flag law, but one that is more complex in execution than existing laws in any states and without using the name or phrase red flag law.

Here is why a red flag law is needed. There are persons who commit assault, make threats or brandish weapons in a menacing way, but such assaults and threats are often not prosecuted or they are not prosecuted as felonies. These minor crimes, together with drunk and disorderly conduct and other public drunkenness crimes, and/or the publicly expressed desire to kill a number of people are often excellent and helpful predictors of murderous behavior, if and when the person also has a firearm.

Therefore, one or more incidents of assaults, threats, brandishing and perhaps certain kinds of drunk and disorderly conduct should lead police and the courts to seize the guns of persons making the threats and assaults, whether or not there is a criminal prosecution for such crimes.

Such a law has been found necessary and good in a conservative state such as Indiana and was recently recommended to President Trump by the Attorney General of Indiana, a Republican.

It does not take a psychological evaluation for police or a court to recognize that a person who expresses his desire to kill a hundred others, who is making threats or engaging in disorderly conduct is not suitable to bear arms, whether or not the threat or disorderly conduct has risen to the level of a criminal charge. It is in fact mostly a matter of common sense. In the vast majority of proposed uses of the law, police, judges and society will all agree unanimously that a certain person has manifested sufficient indicia of danger to justify removing his guns, preemptively.

Plitsas proposes that one thing we must do is increase funding for mental health treatment. Now, no one during WWII suggested that mental health treatment was appropriate for Hitler and his close associates and no one has suggested in 2001 that bin Laden was in need of mental health treatment.

A certain part of our population is evil and has no interest in being treated. Those who have chosen evil will be killed in gunfights, incarcerated or, at the minimum, need to have their firearms removed, pending a strong change in their views on the use of firearms.

The argument put forward by opponents of the red flag laws is that such laws will be abused and then used on those who are innocent. However, even the opponents of the red flag laws generally admit that persons such as Nikolas Cruz or Ian Stawicki should not have had their firearms, given the many indicia of danger shown by them prior to their murder sprees.

Therefore, every state should adopt red flag laws and the NRA should drop its opposition to them. The NRA and others should work instead to have them be written in a way that reduces the risk of abuse of those laws.

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