Red flag law makes good sense

Column By Bill Christopher
Posted 4/10/18

If you follow the daily news in America, you are well aware that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings has awoken people and state legislatures that maintaining the status quo on gun …

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Red flag law makes good sense


If you follow the daily news in America, you are well aware that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings has awoken people and state legislatures that maintaining the status quo on gun restrictions and school safety isn’t acceptable.

The legislative attempts that failed after the heart-wrenching killings at Columbine High School through Sandy Hook Elementary School are now getting various degrees of traction across America.

What was previously off the table, now in numerous cases, are being considered — by one state legislature after another.

At the same time, current public opinion polls indicate a growing majority favor some INCREASED constraints on gun ownership, waiting periods, bump stocks, ammo clip capacity and temporary removal of guns owned by individuals who are deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.

For example, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research recent poll showed that nearly seven out of 10 adults now favor stricter gun control measures.

Court approved temporary gun seizures

To date, six states have enacted “red flag” legislation which allows the temporary seizure of guns before people can commit acts of violence.

These laws create legal vehicles known more formally as Extreme Risk Protection Orders and Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

Indiana, Oregon, Connecticut, California, Washington and Florida have statutes that can be used to temporarily take guns away from people whom a judge has determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

Either law enforcement, or family members in some states, can petition the court to determine if there is merit to temporarily remove guns in a given situation.

Mental illness, escalating threats, substance abuse and domestic violence are among the circumstances under which a judge can order weapons restrictions.

Lawmakers in 21 other states are currently considering such legislation. Unfortunately, so far, our Colorado Legislature has not considered this much needed legislation. Meanwhile, our legislature has rejected the prohibition of bump stocks which increase fire power on semi-automatic weapons.

Let’s hope our state legislators will be enlightened and join other states in enacting legislation to assist law enforcement to deal with these situations. Mental health issues have played a key role in numerous mass shootings in America.

NRA changes its position on red flag

An interesting twist to the red flag legislation is that the National Rifle Association has changed its position on this particular legislation.

Prior to the Parkland murders, the NRA was opposed to temporary removal of guns from people who have questionable behavior.

Now Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist, announced that Congress should incentivize states to adopt red flag laws. He stated “While they won’t solve everything, they will help lead to a broader discussion on how to address a culture of violence in America.”

Such legislation is another tool in the tool box to address the overall issue of gun violence and threats to school children and where the public has assembled. Cox is right that the legislation is not a cure-all, but it is a big step in the right direction.

Support for “red flag” approach

There is research which shows the positive impact of red flag laws. However, in most situations, the danger is suicide, not homicide.

Duke University researchers analyzed the application of Connecticut’s enabling law from 1999 through 2013. They found that police served 762 warrants during the subject period and estimated that a gun suicide was prevented for every 10-to-20 gun seizures.

In an Everytown study of mass shootings from 2009-2016, 42 percent of the attackers had shown warning signs of violent behavior.

Law enforcement officials have said time and time again after such shootings as the Parkland, Florida massacre that they did not have the authority to remove guns from the individual that showed signs of mental imbalance prior to the shooting.

This policy is a pro-active measure that could well prevent additional tragic shootings from happening.

Troops being sent to the Mexican border

Now President Trump says he will send National Guard troops to secure the border with Mexico.

He stated, “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military.”

Well, that just might be an extended tour of duty for the National Guard! I don’t see Trump getting a lump sum to build the wall he promised in the Presidential campaign or Mexico paying for it.

Oh, by the way, how much is this lame idea going to cost? What’s more debt for our children and grandchildren to pay?

The President should be spending his time tackling important issues like upcoming negotiations with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un or aborting the tariff war with China and others which he started or crafting a real infrastructure funding plan for the country or resolving the DACA issue.

One step forward and three steps back.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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