Red Flag Laws Deserve a Hammer and Sickle, Too
In his address in the wake of the massacres in Dayton and El Paso, President Trump said some very wise things. He denounced an ideology he never held nor sympathized with in any way, white nationalism. Trump called for national calm. He spoke up for national unity.
But Trump also made a very serious error, in offering support for “Red Flag” laws aimed at legal gunowners. I can understand why he might make such a mistake. Such laws sound plausible at first. They promise to keep us safe. But they’re also deadly dangerous, as I’ll explain. Dana Loesch accurately described such laws at The Federalist:
The people who report your Twitter account and your Facebook pages because they dislike your opinion want you to trust a government-run system where people can, without serious penalty of law, report you and have your property confiscated before you’re allowed to defend yourself in court weeks, even months, later.
Red flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), have passed through a number of state legislatures across the country; Sen. Marco Rubio has a somewhat new legislative proposal titled the Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act. Sen. Lindsay Graham joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal to co-sponsor red flag legislation; even Rep. Dan Crenshaw has mentioned ERPOs for potential consideration.
Guilty Till Proven Innocent
Under Red Flag laws, the burden of proof is not on the government or your accuser. It’s on you, the gun-owner. You don’t get a free lawyer, as criminal defendants do. You must pay to fight this seizure of your property. The person who lodged a false accusation against you? He can sit back and relax. The state does his job for him, and there’s no effective penalty he faces for lying.
The Bill of Rights is a buzzkill. In fact, the whole Constitution is. Or that’s how you’ll see those documents if your main interest is power. If you think you’re vastly better than your fellow citizens, much wiser and purer and saner than the “Deplorable” huddled masses? Those antique institutions are irritating speed-bumps. So Woodrow Wilson found them. That Social Gospel-thumper and arch-Progressive believed that the Holy Spirit had put him in the White House. The Holy Spirit, he thought, wanted him to make the Gospel real, by imposing social justice, global peace, and eugenic improvements via bayonets, bullets and prison cells. Even before he lied his way into power by promising to keep the U.S. out of World War I, Wilson was writing tomes about the need to sweep away the dusty obstacles to real presidential power.
Coastal elites can’t pass laws banning guns wholesale. So they’ll outsource the job to the nosy neighbors, resentful exes, disgruntled ex-employees and frustrated stalkers out there. Those people will confiscate Americans’ guns retail, one false accusation at a time.
Of course, America’s founders wrote the Constitution specifically with madmen like Wilson in mind. (French diplomats at Versailles warned that he seemed to think he was literally the second coming of Christ.) And good, Constitutional checks and balances somewhat restrained his megalomania, though he got away with a lot because (thanks to him) we were at war.
Carving Us Like Hedges
Today’s Progressives are, believe it or not, even more deranged than Wilson was. As Frederic Bastiat warned more than 100 years ago, these activists today see themselves as talented gardeners, and the rest of us as hedges. It’s the job of the coastal elites, their captive networks and universities, and the federal government to prune us and shape us like topiary into pleasing shapes.
From the tone of leftists lately? I’m pretty sure they want to carve us all into the forms of helpless sheep or hapless veal calves. Or maybe tombstones. Former CNN commentator Reza Aslan called for the “eradication” of Kellyanne Conway. A mob outside Mitch McConnell’s house the other night chanted death threats at the GOP senator. Antifa thugs routinely pummel anyone who gets in their way, untroubled by police.
The Angry Ex-Employee Empowerment Act of 2019
This might not be the time for Americans to meekly surrender their weapons to the nice men from the government. But that’s precisely what Red Flag laws would force many Americans to do. Which Americans? People who belong to any of the following groups:
- Men with vengeful ex-girfriends or wives.
- Women with stalkers savvy enough to lodge a false complaint.
- Employers who fired somebody once.
- Trump supporters whose leftist neighbors resent them.
- Home schoolers whose conformist neighbors think they are “weirdos.”
- Christians or other conservatives who speak up at school board or library meetings against X-rated sex education or drag queen story hours.
- Anyone in America who irritates anyone else for any reason at all.
With Red Flag laws, at a single stroke, the gun-grabbers who want Americans to turn into disarmed, passive subjects of coastal elites will have almost everything they want. They can’t pass laws banning guns wholesale. So they’ll outsource the job to the nosy neighbors, resentful exes, disgruntled ex-employees and frustrated stalkers out there. Those people will confiscate Americans’ guns retail, one false accusation at a time.
Try This with the Rest of the Bill of Rights
Imagine any Constitutional right subject to such abuse. Imagine that anybody could shut down a journalist (or even Facebook user) with a single call to the authorities, accusing him of leaking national security secrets.
Or that anyone could get the neighbor who plays his music too loud subject to a long intrusive audit by the IRS, with a single unsubstantiated charge.
Picture an America where you could get neighbors of the “wrong” ethnic group carted off by ICE, with a hint that they might be illegals.
And (this is the crucial part) in each case the burden would be on the accused to prove the charges wrong.
Of course, that would amount to a totalitarian country. The whole point of Anglo-American jurisprudence is the presumption of innocence, until judged by a jury of peers.
The Presumption of Guilt
Red Flag laws presume guilt, and leave the final decision in the pudgy, pink hands of a judge. Let such laws gut the Second Amendment, and soon enough laws like it will emerge to eviscerate the rest of the Bill of Rights. Because the elites who hunger for power won’t stop at our guns. And once we’ve given those up, we’re literally helpless to protect any other right. No Second Amendment, no First.
But surely it’s safe to trust the government with this power, isn’t it? That’s what the 133 million or so people murdered by their own governments (not counting casualties of war) between 1914 and 2014 probably thought, too. It’s certainly what Weimar Germans thought when they passed the tough gun control laws that the Nazis quickly used to render their enemies helpless.
Red Flag laws are deeply un-American. Any Republican who backs them deserves to lose. And believe me, he will.
John Zmirak is a Senior Editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.