With the 2020 election coming up, candidates are pulling out the standard tricks used to unseat a sitting Republican president. As usual, they've begun coming up with new gun control promises aimed at wooing centrist and liberal voters so they can win the White House. Any time a Democrat runs against a sitting Republican, the hot-button topic of guns is always amplified.
This election cycle's no different, only candidates aren't just calling for regular ole' gun bans and universal background checks. This time, they're taking a new approach. One that doesn't directly ban guns, but could ban you from owning one. Ever.
They're called Red Flag gun laws, and they're getting more popular. Fifteen states have already passed Red Flag gun control bills. More worrying still is the President's latest signal that he's open to certain gun control measures.
What is "Red Flag" gun control?
Red Flag gun control is designed to "flag" suspicious, potentially dangerous gun owners. Red Flag laws usually include legalese allowing for gun confiscations and further investigation of the "flagged" individual.
Once flagged, law enforcement usually gets involved quickly. They'll demand you confiscate your guns under threat of being imprisoned or committed. You may be required to submit to psychological tests or cross-examination by a medical professional.
Many legislators and Justice department officials say these laws help to prevent gun violence from happening. California reported a sharp increase in gun confiscations with the passage of its own Red Flag law. The bill required anyone with a restraining order to submit their guns for confiscation.
While taking a firearm from a dangerous person sounds reasonable, the attitude of officials charged with enforcing these bills is worrying. When asked about why the law is so effective, San Diego City Attorney Maria Elliot said quite simply, "We don't have to wait for a crime to be committed."
That sounds scarily similar to a search-and-seizure without probable cause or due process.
Who can "flag" a gun owner?
This is the question that peels away the ugly underpinnings of Red Flag gun control: Most individuals can report a gun owner for temporary gun confiscation. Of the 15 states with Red Flag laws in place, most allow friends, family, and even co-workers or acquaintances - basically anyone you may barely know - to report you to the authorities for investigation.
In essence, laypeople and pedestrians (not the police, a District Attorney, or a judge) are being given some judicial power over your 2nd Amendment rights. Even worse, this power is not being prescribed with any stringent requirements.
Under most Red Flag laws, anyone with a suspicion - no matter how baseless - can report a gun owner and have their guns temporary taken. The standard of proof required for most reporting is merely a "preponderance of the evidence". That means whoever flagged you only has to convince the authorities that there could be a 50% or greater chance of the reported suspicion being true.
It's their word against yours, except you don't even know you've been reported until it's too late.
Starting to see the issue?
Why Red Flag gun control is dangerous
Scenario: You have a co-worker who's clearly anti-gun. You're openly pro-gun. You've been battling it out over a promotion. At times, things have gotten heated. He or she may have said some rude things, you may have responded not too kindly. There has been tension, perhaps even aggressive words. But nothing that would suggest you're a violent, dangerous, or mentally unwell person. Too bad, because he or she reported you as a potential threat to others under your state's Red Flag law. They say you're "incredibly aggressive and violent toward others" and you're "always bragging about how many guns you own". You're home one night with your family, and the local police come knocking. You've done nothing wrong, but your gun safe is about to be emptied.
Red Flag gun control laws don't work. Indiana and Connecticut both passed similar Red Flag laws. Both states allowed for the reporting of gun owners who might harm themselves or others. Gun confiscations rose sharply in both states. While suicide rates with a firearm did fall slightly, overall suicide rates didn't budge.
As researcher Aaron Kivisto said, "Taking the gun isn't the end of the situation. It doesn't reduce the crisis." If taking the gun out of the equation doesn't help, why do it?
Those who want to harm themselves or others will continue to do so. Confiscating one's guns may or may not help to reduce that immediate risk, but gun control does not reduce crime. Gun control without due process is even worse.
Red Flag laws put others at risk the most. Just last year, a man was shot and killed in his home by Maryland police officers attempting to confiscate his guns. The man became irate and a shoot-out occurred. Thankfully, no officers or family members were harmed. But a law intended to save lives only resulted in one being taken, and many others endangered.
You can be reported for almost anything
We don't like to fear-monger. We only report what is factual or said by others. Most worrying is one example of how Red Flag laws can be used - ones that have already been passed. In Connecticut, the reasons for gun confiscation have included such simple concerns as "conflict between intimate partners, emotional distress over finances, and sadness of loss in old age."
We're pretty sure most Americans deal with these very same issues on a near-daily basis.
Avoid Red Flag laws and false reporting
First, we're not advocating that you or anyone break the law. We also strongly advocate for seeking professional help when needed. But, chances are, most of you reading this are level-headed gun owners. You're a law-abiding citizen and you don't want to get caught up in a gun confiscation with a false report. Here are some of the ways to avoid being falsely reported under a Red Flag gun control law:
1. Don't brag about your guns at work. They're for you to use, and they're no one else's business. Besides, hanging up a picture of your favorite black rifle in your cubicle might not be taken so well by others.
2. Don't blast gun pictures on social media. We know, Reddit has a great AR-15 channel and Facebook is addicting. But don't throw up an album of your favorite guns for all to see. No one needs an inventory, and you don't need to make yourself a target for thieves. We're also willing to bet you could think of at least one incredibly anti-gun person in your friend's list who would assume your picture of an AR-15 means you're out for blood. Avoid giving them the excuse.
3. Build your guns at home. This might seem like an extreme approach. But hey, if you have nosy neighbors or friends who are very, very against gun ownership (and you legitimately think they would attempt to false-flag you), it works. Most states don't have any special laws against building a gun at home and the ATF and Gun Control Act both say it's legal.
We wager most anti-gunners get worked up over things like tactical rifles - the AR-15 in particular. That's where the 80% lower comes in. Because an 80% lower isn't considered a firearm, it gets
shipped to your front door. Then, all you need is an 80 lower jig to complete the lower. Anyone can do this with little more than a handheld router and hand drill. The jig comes with everything else you need.
Once you've knocked out the lower, all you need is an AR-15 upper, a lower parts kit, and a buffer system. Or you can also grab everything you need with an AR-15 Build Kit. The Build Kit includes everything except the jig, and some Ultimate Build Kits include everything, including the upper, lower, jig and router, and parts kit.
4. Advocate against red flag laws. Get involved! This is the most effective way to prevent yourself from getting caught up in frivolous gun control. You can easily locate your state and local representatives through the Federal House of Representatives' website. The only way to prevent needless gun confiscation is to inform your politicians and the public about why these laws don't work.