Red flag laws, universal background checks might seem divine, but devil is in details

It's like clockwork with anti-gun zealots, especially those who are in charge of violence-laden cities.

They promote policies that lead to crime and then rush to blame law-abiding gun owners, the state legislature, and even guns themselves when those policies result in negative statistics.

"Gun nuts" are the problem. Enact red flag laws. Push for mandatory universal background checks. Yada, yada, yada.

After all, according to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, "Who opposes a red flag law? This state legislature has put in place some of the most reckless and dangerous gun policies in America."

It's stunning how two sentences could have so many issues.

Let's start with the notion that Ohio's gun laws are reckless and dangerous, as he certainly is referring to relaxed concealed-carry laws. The idea that law-abiding gun owners who carry handguns concealed are the problem is, of course, nonsensical. Most crimes are committed by thugs who obtained handguns illegally, and he likely knows that.

Now let's address red flag laws and the other often-touted "safety" measure of universal background checks. Both come up frequently, not just among the Everytown for Gun Safety types but also those who otherwise are supportive of Second Amendment rights. After all, they sound reasonable — until you get into the details and discover how anti-Constitution they really are.

Red flag laws

We'll use anti-gun group Everytown's own definition to describe the idea of red flag laws as follows:

"When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as 'Red Flag' laws, allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns."

Doesn't that sound reasonable? Someone who is an apparent "extreme risk" would "temporarily" lose access to their firearms.

But beyond the obvious due-process violation, imagine the possibility of abuse.

The Crime Prevention Research Center, run by John Lott Jr., highlights problems with such laws.

For example, a married Pennsylvania state trooper last fall was arrested for falsely committing his ex-girlfriend to a mental health facility and assaulting her. The trooper is alleged to have intentionally misrepresented the texts she had sent him, all to exert control over her.

She was held involuntarily for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation without any due-process hearing under the assumption that she was a danger to herself and others, all because a law-enforcement officer doctored her text messages.

In addition to unconstitutionality, red flag laws are useless. Lott was part of a 2018 study published by Michigan State University, titled "Do red flag laws save lives or reduce crime?"

Here's the answer:

"In the end, the study found a slight increase in murder and suicide in the immediate aftermath of a Red Flag law’s implementation, followed by a gradual decrease in both until they returned to pre-statute levels. Thus, according to this article, Red Flag laws have no effect.

"If — as this study suggests — ERPOs have no discernible effect on rates of murder and suicide, and actually may increase them as those who would harm themselves are dissuaded from saying anything to their loved ones for fear of having their possessions taken away, policymakers must look to other solutions for the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence."

Universal background checks

The idea of checking the criminal background of every firearm purchaser draws support from the masses, including many staunch Second Amendment supporters.

But as Lott's group pointed out, when people consider the issue on individual circumstances, support wanes.

His organization hired a team to survey people's views on UBC and posed several questions that prompted some telling responses.

For example, one question was, "Do you support or oppose requiring background checks on all gun sales or transfers?"

Not surprisingly, 86% supported that idea, with 70% strongly supporting it.

But then respondents were given this scenario:

"Let's say a stalker is threatening a female friend of yours late on a Saturday night. She asks you if she can borrow your handgun until she has a chance to buy one. She is trained and has no criminal record. If you loaned her the gun, this law would make you a felon. Would you support or oppose this law?"

Opposition now outweighs support 44% to 42%.

Here's another one:

"A Boy Scout troop is going for their skeet shooting badges. If you lend the Scout masters your shotguns, you would be committing a felony. Would you support or oppose this law?"

Opposition leads support 45% to 42%.

Rahm Emanuel is often sourced for paraphrasing a World War II Winston Churchill quote: "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

Don't be fooled. Red flag laws and universal background checks might seem divinely inspired, but understand that the devil is in the details.

Joe D. "Buck" Ruth is a longtime small-game hunter and gun owner who spent nearly three decades in the news industry.

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