When President Donald Trump was a candidate, he emphasized that he would “totally protect” the second amendment.
Although he angled for gun-rights votes, sometimes it has been unclear if his position is as principled as he claims, such as last year when he said law enforcement should “take the guns first, go through due process second.”
The comment was in reference to a process the government can use to suspend a person’s Second Amendment rights if they deem them dangerous. Known as red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), these laws came up again this month in response to mass shootings. Trump expressed support for red flag laws, and Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal will introduce a bipartisan proposal next month to encourage states to adopt them.
RED FLAG LAWS: SOUND GOOD; DON’T WORK
Red flag laws are already in on the books in 17 states and Washington, D.C.
Generally speaking, they allow a family member to petition a judge for an ERPO to confiscate a person’s guns.
Many people, including Republicans, support these laws because, after all, it sounds reasonable to take guns from dangerous people. However, these laws are more harmful they first seem.
That’s why the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union condemned the state’s red flag law last year. In a paper, they said an ERPO “could be issued without any indication that the person poses an imminent threat to others, and without any evidence that he or she ever committed, or has even threatened to commit, an act of violence with a firearm.”
The Rhode Island ACLU argued that red flag laws violate due process, as they can allow judges to issue emergency orders without the gun owner having the opportunity to contest it until after the fact.
The paper also questioned whether police would use ERPOs “as a general search warrant that could conveniently allow police to ‘stumble across’ evidence of unrelated illegal activity.”
Aside from the question of gun rights, red flag laws are a threat to civil liberties. How can we trust that the government will not abuse the power to seize property with little evidence?
DON’T GIVE AN INCH
Though it is O.K. for Republicans to seek common ground and make bipartisan compromises, it must be considered what they are compromising on, and to whom they are compromising it.
The GOP must not compromise away our constitutional liberties out of loyalty to a president who shows little respect for them. And they should not seek to appease people who call for assault weapons bans, “mandatory buybacks” (in honest English, gun confiscations), and gun control by executive order, because it will only empower them to push further.