By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) Conservative groups are making ready to battle back against a bipartisan push in Washington to pass a federal “red flag” gun control law that would empower states to enact legislation permitting judges and police to confiscate guns from people believed to be a danger.
The effort comes as Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, a long-shot candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, renewed a call for a red flag law citing a Washington Post–ABC News poll released Sept. 9 that claims “86 percent” of Americans favor one.
But activists on the ground, especially in conservative “red” states, say that figure is highly suspect, especially in their jurisdictions where opposition to any new gun control is high.
“The mainstream media is altering the perception of gun violence,” South Carolina state Rep. Stewart Jones told The Epoch Times.
“In South Carolina, legislators are standing up for constituents. We’re not going to stand by and allow the further erosion of our Constitution,” he added.
Last month following a pair of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, on the same day, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proposed bipartisan federal legislationthat would essentially reward states that passed red flag laws with financial and other incentives.
“I have reached an agreement with Senator Blumenthal to create a federal grant program to assist and encourage states to adopt ‘Red Flag’ Protection Order laws to timely intervene in situations where there is an imminent threat of violence,” he said, The National Sentinel reported.
“We must make sure that those judged to pose a risk to public safety do not have access to firearms—and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for ‘Red Flag’ laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” he added.
Opponents say such laws are unconstitutional on a number of levels. First, they violate a citizen’s Second Amendment rights by infringing on firearms ownership. Secondly, they violate the Constitution’s due process requirement by essentially punishing someone for a crime they have yet to commit.
Red flag laws allow persons to be identified as potentially dangerous by others — friends, family members, and relatives — to be deprived of their firearms by court order. The person targeted does not appear in court at the time the order is issued and thus is unable to defend himself or herself. That comes sometime later and, depending on the state law, can be a matter of a few weeks to a year, at which point the court can decide the person’s firearms do not have to be returned.
Rep. Jones is among 39 state legislators in the state House and Senate in South Carolina who sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the president to reject the “red flag” push.
“According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health issue in a given year. Absent the institutionalization of disturbed individuals, the person presenting actual threats to society will remain a threat after their firearms are removed. These individuals will still have access to vehicles, knives or countless other lethal items to commit mass murder,” the letter says.
“In states like Maryland, Oregon, and California that have enacted these ‘red flag’ laws, the individuals subject to ’emergency protection orders’ are effectively guilty until proven innocent,” the letter continues. “This flips due process on its head. ‘Red flag’ laws erode the very cornerstones of our country, the right to keep and bear arms and due process. They also put law enforcement and citizens in adverse, unnecessary circumstances that will lead to more instances of police brutality and tragic death.
“During your candidacy for President, the former administration used the F.B.I. and F.I.S.A. courts against you. We are urging you not to give the federal government any more power to bypass our Constitution.
“Furthermore, we the undersigned urge you to remember your oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, which expressly prohibits taking the inherent human rights of Americans without prior due process,” the letter said.
Other states are also battling against red flag laws. There are competing bills in Oklahoma, for instance — one that would enact such legislation and another that would prevent lawmakers from recognizing and enforcing a federal red flag law.
As formerGOP Congressman Bob Barr explains, this is a gun control solution looking for a problem:
These proposals create a new category of restraining orders applicable to owners of firearms, and would permit virtually anyone at any time to enlist local law enforcement and a judge to issue ex parte orders (sometimes by phone) directing law enforcement to seize a person’s firearms based on fear that they might in the future commit a bad act with a gun.
The concerns fueling these “red flag” proposals are genuine, and they are urgent.
The solution, however, is not to toss due process out the window in the name of “public safety.” The question we ought to be asking (and to which we should be demanding answers) is why the powers and the tools already possessed by police agencies and our courts at all levels of government, are not being employed when and how they should be.
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