Red Flag proposals distract from the real problem, don't bring desired results
There is incessant talk in the media and among many politicians about “red flag” laws. Let’s explore what they are, what they are not, and why there is such strong division about them.
“Red flag” is like “good music.” It is not a legal term. It means different things to different people, so it means nothing in the scope of fixing a problem.
When I say “good music,” some people think classical, others rock, or jazz, or hip-hop, or country, or maybe opera. There must be other context for the phrase to mean anything, or it’s just nonsense or different people saying the same words, but thinking very different thoughts.
“Red flag” is the exact same thing. Some people think taking people’s guns, some people think helping mentally ill, some people think due process, some people think emergency powers, some think taking property. Ultimately, the term means nothing in the sense of solving a problem.
Innocent people being slaughtered is a problem. Their lives matter. Their family and friends matter. They deserve better than nonsense terms that mean nothing.
If “guns” were the problem, then countries like Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Japan, China, Russia would not have mass killings. But they all do. Banning guns didn’t work there, and it won’t work here. It may have been a noble cause at one time, but today it’s a failed idea. It has become a common saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The victims deserve better.
We have a mental health problem. You don’t solve a mental health problem by taking someone’s stuff. You solve it by treating the patient. They need a doctor. Maybe therapy. Maybe medication. Maybe multiple treatments. Some people can be treated out-patient, and others require in-patient care. Some illnesses are not treatable, but most are.
Every case is different. If solving this crisis were easy and simple, if there were “a solution” that fixed every problem, it would have been implemented long ago. But life and mental illness does not work that way. It’s messy and complicated.
Some people want to pass “red flag” laws because they want to “do something.” Others oppose them because they believe politicians should follow the doctor’s Hippocratic oath, “First, do no harm.”
There is almost universal support of the idea that violent criminals should not be permitted to buy/possess guns. It’s already law. There is almost universal support of the idea that people with mental illness such that they are a danger to themselves / others should not be permitted to buy / possess guns. That is already law too.
What is needed is enforcement of the laws, and improvements to make the laws functional for the problems that actually exist.
If you want a better solution, then don’t copy a failed idea.
If you want to help people, then focus on the person, not the objects they possess.
Jim Irvine is Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman, recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award and CCRKBA's 2012 Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award.