Disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes
With the increased news coverage of gun-related crimes and mass-shootings in the last few years, some politicians have unfortunately decided to capitalize on the situation to try and enact new firearms laws.
While these laws are often presented as “common-sense gun control”, which few people are actually against, to the law-abiding gun owners, the actual language of many of these laws doesn’t seem to make much sense at all.
The more blatant attempts to erode gun rights, such as blanket bans on AR-15 rifles, get the most coverage in the news, and (thankfully) have a tough time getting passed into law. Some of the lesser-known laws, however, such as “red flag” laws, are getting through, and fans of the 2nd Amendment everywhere should be just as concerned.
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Flag on the Play
So what exactly is a red flag law? A red flag law officially goes by many different names, from an “Extreme Risk Protection Order”, or just “Risk Protection Order”, to “Risk Warrant”, or “Gun Violence Restraining Order”, and, our personal favorite, “Proceeding for the Seizure and Retention of a Firearm”.
All of the fancy naming conventions aside, a red flag law is essentially a law that allows someone to report a person if they think that person might be a danger to himself or others.
As a result of the report, that person will have to turn in all firearms and will be prohibited from further interaction with firearms until he can prove he is in fact not a danger to himself or others.
Of course, if the person chooses not to turn in their firearms voluntarily, the law allows for the confiscation of the firearms. For the public good, of course.
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable type of law to have. But that’s how they get you! Like most “common-sense gun control” laws, when you dig down deeper into the details, it becomes less “common sense” and more “gun control”.
Stating the Rules
Since there is no national red flag law currently, all of these laws are being enacted at the state level. Because of this, the exact reporting requirements and enforcement procedures vary from state to state.
In some states, the initial reporting of an individual has to be made by law enforcement officers, while others allow anyone to report an individual suspected of being a danger to himself or others.
It’s not difficult to see how this could be abused by an anti-gun activist trying to have guns confiscated from law-abiding gun owners, or even just someone reporting their neighbor over an argument.
Once the initial report is made, the individual is prohibited from interacting with firearms and deprived of his firearms for anywhere from a day to a few weeks, with some laws allowing for an extension of the time period for up to a full year.
All of this taken together is a recipe for a gun-grabbing disaster.
Where Did They Come From?
While it may seem like these laws are springing up in many states all of a sudden, red flag laws are a relatively recent phenomenon.
The first red flag law was passed back in 1999 in Connecticut in response to a shooting at the state Lottery headquarters.
After that, other states began to gradually adopt their own versions, often in response to shootings, as part of efforts to show the government was addressing what they viewed as a firearms issue.
Fast forward to 2019, and there are now 17 states with red flag laws on the books, with other states trying to get their own versions passed as well.
States with Red Flag Laws
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington, D.C.
Before we get any smart alecs chiming in down at the comments section, yes, D.C. is technically not a state, but they dislike the 2nd Amendment just as much as any anti-2A state in the country.
How Did We Get Here?
While most of the list reads like a who’s who of anti-2A states, including perennial favorites such as California and New Jersey, some of the more typically 2A-friendly states like Florida are also on there. No one is safe!
It shouldn’t be a surprise that states like California have added red flag laws to the books to complement their other gun control laws, but states like Florida have often been considered relatively free states, with “shall-issue” concealed carry licenses.
So what’s the deal?
Laws like red flag laws attempt to appeal to the “common sense” aspect of gun control, and understandably, when tragic incidents such as the school shooting in Parkland, FL occur, people expect something to be done to protect us and our families, and to make sure these incidents can never happen again.
Many people look to the politicians to pass laws to address the issues, and unfortunately, more often than not, we get knee-jerk reactions in the form of proposals to ban all firearms and attempts to demonize pro-gun groups such as the NRA.
Without subjecting you guys to a 5 page discussion of mental health issues in the country, it’s easy to see why politicians would prefer to pass red flag laws and be able to say something is being done by confiscating firearms, rather than talk about intangible efforts to address the underlying mental issues that seem to be at the root of many of the recently publicized shootings.
But All Is Not Lost!
While no one is arguing against trying to reduce, and hopefully eliminate shootings, not everyone believes red flag laws are the way to go about it. It should come as no surprise then, that with the rise of these red flag laws comes “2nd Amendment sanctuaries”.
These counties and cities aren’t officially designated as 2nd Amendment sanctuaries, however, because that’s just called being part of the United States and following the US Constitution.
A play on the “sanctuary cities” and states popping up across the country that has vowed to ignore federal immigration laws and requests for assistance by ICE, these “2nd Amendment” sanctuary counties and cities have similarly vowed to ignore any and all confiscation orders under the red flag laws of their respective states.
One of the most recent examples of the 2A sanctuary counties was in response to the red flag law passed in Colorado in April of 2019.
Over half the counties in the state, as well as some individual cities, have officially passed resolutions declaring themselves 2nd Amendment sanctuary counties and cities, with the sheriffs choosing to side with the gun owners rather than following firearms confiscation orders.
Of course, in the case of Colorado, like many other similar situations happening across the country, many of the 2A sanctuaries have a majority politically conservative population, though some of the more moderate and middle-of-the-road counties have also begun hopping on board.
In the unfortunately often-politicized news cycles of today, whenever tragic events such as the shootings in El Paso, TX or Dayton, OH occur, vocal portions of the public cry out for additional regulations on firearms, typically in the form of “universal background checks” or “assault weapons bans”, and now, “red flag” laws, under the belief that these types of laws will ensure shooting never occur again.
Many politicians on both sides of the aisle, under pressure from these vocal segments of the population and the media, are understandably quick to join in on the call for new gun laws.
With more states continuing to pass, or trying to pass, red flag laws and politicians at the federal level discussing a national red flag law, there will undoubtedly be lawsuits filed in response to the firearms confiscations, and possibly against the 2A sanctuary counties and cities.
At the very least, state legislatures will be upset their gun control laws aren’t being enforced, and law-abiding gun owners will be upset at their firearms being taken away so easily.
Putting aside the issue of whether additional background checks beyond those already being performed will serve any purpose, and the discussion of whether civilians currently have access to “assault weapons” as it is, the sad truth remains that enacting more gun laws to stop those who commit crimes, i.e. ignore and break the law, will not stop criminals.
Instead, it will only serve to put additional restrictions on the law-abiding citizens who wish to maintain the right to hunt however they wish, or simply have a means of self-defense as our Founding Fathers intended.
While no one is against eliminating gun violence such as mass shootings, the disagreement often lies in how to go about accomplishing this goal. As any law-abiding firearms owner knows, a firearm is simply a tool to accomplish a purpose, whether it is hunting, self-defense, or defending the citizenry against a tyrannical government.
Like any other tool, it must be treated with the respect and care it deserves and used in a responsible manner. And also like any other tool, it can be misused, as seen by the rise of crimes involving knives, acid, and even cars, in Great Britain, where civilian gun-ownership is near impossible and gun crimes are essentially non-existent.
Ultimately, it may take a couple of especially egregious abuses of the red flag laws being enforced for the problems with these laws to be adequately addressed, either by amending them to prevent future abuse of the laws, or to focus on the underlying mental health issues, rather than trying to find a better-fitting Band-Aid.
If all else fails, the issue may need to follow the route of other recent firearms laws and go to the Supreme Court for a final say.
In the meantime, it is the responsibility of every gun-owner and potential gun-owner to follow the 4 rules of firearms safety, and to make sure your firearms are either secured on or near your person, or securely stowed away in a trusty safe, to make sure no authorized individuals ever gain access to your firearms to use in an unsafe or illegal manner.
What are your thoughts on red flag laws? Are we headed for a national red flag law? Let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in concealed carry, take a look at our Complete CCW Guide!