Last week, David French of the National Review came out in support of red flag Laws. For those of you who do not know, a red flag law is where the government has the right to seize your weapons if you are deemed to be dangerous to yourself or to anyone else. To his credit, Mr. French makes a rather good argument for the need for red flag laws. However, red flag laws are a horrible idea, and cannot ever be properly implemented, therefore we must avoid the temptation to pass any type of red flag law.
Mr. French’s premise is that a well-written piece of legislation cannot be abused by the courts or the government, but a bad piece of legislation can be and will be. Here is where Mr. French is either woefully naïve or is disingenuous. A group of politicians cannot write such a perfect law into being because there are too many who will want to kill the bill or put their own pet projects into the legislation. Here is how the likely legislative process for a red flag law would work.
Two hard-working U.S. senators – one from each side of the aisle, will sit down and write a piece of legislation. The GOP senator will call for a similar piece of legislation as called for by Mr. French (only a close relative can turn a person into the state with certain documentation). The Democratic senator (to make it palatable for his Democratic friends) will add a few things in there. Maybe a ban on certain magazines for example. The GOP senator will not agree with his Democratic counterpart but wants to get his bill passed, so that will be added into the legislation. You have two senators down, and you will need 58 more to get the bill past a filibuster. At that time, everyone puts their two cents worth into the bill. One senator from New Jersey won’t go along with the bill until there is federal funding for one of his pet projects. A senator from the Midwest will want some money for ethanol or some other pork-barrel project. A few other Democrats will only sign off on the bill if there are extended ways that the government can expand the circumstances under which your guns can be forcibly taken (aka a neighbor can turn you in or someone else can turn you in to the government).
The rush to get something done will overshadow everything else. And then one of two things will occur. Either a horrible bill will be passed, or a horrible bill will be killed off. The concept of having a neighbor turn in another neighbor to law enforcement is scary. Turning in your neighbor is Stalinesque, to say the least.
President Trump has come out in favor of some type of red flag law. While I share his passion in wanting to get something done to stop the violence, reducing the liberty of law-abiding citizens and making people afraid of having their neighbors turn them into the government over a squabble is beyond terrifying.
Trump is correct in saying that we need to do something about mental health, and the fact is that there has never been a real study about the effects of psychotropic drugs on our youth. These powerful drugs have horrible effects on the mind – and we really don’t know the effects of these drugs long term. So before we go after our neighbors in the name of “getting something done,” let’s commission a national study about the effects of these medications. And let us not rush to pass some law just to say we did something. I appreciate Mr. French saying that a properly written red flag law will be a good thing. In a perfect world, he is right. But we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where politicians pander and too many compromises occur. Mr. French’s “good bill” cannot be passed, because no bill can survive the process.