What are Red Flag laws: pros and cons
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The Second Amendment of the constitution presents a dilemma. It gives and protects citizens’ right to own guns for personal protection (LII, 2022). The recent increase in gun violence in the United States has raised many concerns regarding gun control measures that should be implemented to curb the issue. One approach is the implementation of “red flag laws” that aim to restrict ownership of guns by potentially dangerous people—individuals posing a risk of harming themselves and others (Williams, 2019). The major dilemma facing these laws is reducing gun violence through restriction on ownership while adhering to the Second Amendment and due process provisions of the constitution. While there are many debates around red flags laws, this analysis will explain how they work and discuss their pros and cons.
How Red Flag Laws Work
Red flag laws are a modern form of community watch program allowing family members, school officials, doctors, local police, or prosecutors to request the confiscation of an individual’s firearm when they appear to be a risk to themselves and others (Saul, 2022). Moreover, there are variations regarding the processing of charges, people who can report the matter, and whether the firearm can be confiscated instantly or a court hearing will be required beforehand. In most cases, the petition for confiscation is presented before a judge, who then directs law enforcement to retrieve the gun for some sometimes, which can be days, weeks, months, and even years (Phillips, 2022). The time is often determined by the level of risks posed by the individuals. The temporary confiscation of guns is not dependent on mental history or previous felony convictions.
Red flag laws are also called “extreme risk protection orders.” Gun policy experts prefer this term to avoid stigmatizing individuals on the receiving end of the confiscation petition (Phillips, 2022). Today, several states have red flag laws on books, including Indiana, Florida, New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia (Phillips, 2022; Williams, 2019). While the laws achieve the same purpose, some variations exist in implementation in different states. For instance, in Florida, the law is relatively narrow, only requiring police to file the confiscation petition. On the other hand, in Maryland and the District of Columbia, only mental health professionals make the petition. Lastly, school officials make the petition in New York, while Hawaii allows work colleagues to file the petition.
Pros Associated with Red Flag Laws
While prevention is better than cure, red flag laws have great potential to reduce gun violence that skyrocketed recently across the country. If properly enforced, the temporary confiscation of guns from individuals posing threats can save many lives (Vasilogambros, 2021). A study by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows that average shooters exhibit several alarming behavior and experiences, including struggles with multiple stressors months before the attack and taking about a week to prepare for the attack (Phillips, 2022). In some cases, the individuals have trouble interacting with others, while some share clues of their violent intentions which people around them. Another California law study found that more than 21 instances of firearm confiscation involved people threatening a mass shooting. Most of them involved White men who had made explicit threats (Williams, 2019). This suggests that in the absence of red flags laws, cases of gun violence could be overwhelming, given that many others were prevented before they occurred.
In Florida alone, red flag laws have been used over 8,000 times in the last four years to remove individuals’ rights to possess guns temporarily. One case involved a family man who had threatened to “shoot everyone” where his son was studying and a woman who attempted suicide. Gun policy experts strongly agree that red flag laws prevent suicide (Phillips, 2022). They think these laws are vital for spouses, parents, and relatives to prevent gun violence they fear is imminent. Moreover, gun experts argue that any reasonable person can identify changes in a person’s behavior and that having access to a gun poses a risk of gun violence.
Cons Linked to Red Flag Laws
With the benefits of red flag laws come several drawbacks. Many people, including legal professionals, policymakers, gun rights groups, and some public members, perceive the laws as a violation of red flag laws, a violation of the constitution—the Second Amendment provision (Phillips, 2022). Red flag laws conflict with federal laws requiring an individual to have been a felony convict received mental treatment or been involved in domestic violence before their guns are even temporal confiscation. According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), red flag laws violate a person’s “due process” since the initial petition does not require the gun owner to be in court. Evidence such as voice notes, notebooks, and text from the gun owners form the foundation of the case. Due process provides people a chance to be heard in courts. Implementation of the laws has the potential risk of stereotypical discrimination. Stereotypes like “Black Americans with gun violence” may sprout new bases for racial discrimination, including systemic racism.
In conclusion, red flag laws can greatly reduce the numerous cases of gun violence in the United States. They will prevent mass shootings, suicides, and domestic violence as individuals posing imminent threats will have no access to firearms. Individuals with mental conditions or dealing with other stressors can be helped while their guns are temporarily confiscated. It is hard to ignore arguments of violation of due process and the Second Amendment linked to the red flag laws. A cost-benefit analysis should guide policymakers on the best way to implement red flag laws to address this dilemma. Moreover, cases of discrimination should be eliminated from the implementation process. I strongly believe that prevention is better than cure.
- LII. (2022, June). Second Amendment | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment
- Phillips, A. (2022, June 14). Red flag laws, explained – The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/14/what-is-a-red-flag-law/
- Saul, I. (2022, June 2). Red flag laws. https://www.readtangle.com/otherposts/red-flag-laws-pros-cons/
- Vasilogambros, M. (2021, October 5). Red Flag Laws Are Saving Lives. They Could Save More. | The Pew Charitable Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2021/10/05/red-flag-laws-are-saving-lives-they-could-save-more
- Williams, T. (2019, August 6). What Are ‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws, and How Do They Work? – The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/06/us/red-flag-laws.html