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September 22, 2019

8/17/2019 7:30:00 AM
Reducing mass violence - Let's focus on the real problem
Gregg Walker and Richard Moore
Publisher and Columnist

There is a palpable sense of frustration in the nation after two more mass shootings with more than 30 deaths, this time in Texas and Ohio.

Typically, many politicians, especially on the Left, have used the tragedies not to seek real, common-sense solutions but to promote their political agendas. We hear anew their robo-like calls to disarm the nation, which most people know are simply calls to disarm law-abiding citizens.

We also hear increased calls for red-flag laws, which would permit certain people, such as family members or co-workers or even neighbors, to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

As the nation grapples with the issue of mass shootings - which is undoubtedly a clear and present danger - we should all remember a few points.

First, no one but the shooters are responsible for their actions. President Donald Trump is not responsible for Dayton or El Paso, nor is the media or social media responsible, as Trump charged. Likewise, "loose" gun laws and racism are not responsible, and neither are "drag queen advocates," as one Ohio lawmaker put it, or liberals who have caused the breakdown of the traditional American family.

Playing the blame game on either side simply removes responsibility for these crimes from the shoulders of those who commit them and makes them victims, too. They are not.

To be sure, most are suffering from severe mental health issues, but mental illness should never be an excuse for murder. Our policies may have failed to help them get the help they need, or to stop them from carrying out evil, but society's failures cannot be blamed for errant behavior in a society built around the fundamental values of individual liberty and personal responsibility.

There are things government can do, but government cannot guarantee a safe life without taking away everyone's free life.

And while our political rhetoric may be overheated, it has been that way throughout American history, and we should never give potential killers cover by sending a message that anyone or anything else is to blame for anything they do.

As for future policies, those who advocate for gun bans ignore the fact that such bans simply target law-abiding citizens who would never commit such an atrocious act. It might make some people feel good to see the government confiscating millions of guns from people who keep them not only for sport or hunting but to defend their families, but confiscating those firearms actually makes the nation less safe by stripping citizens of a means of self-defense.

It would be criminals who would be dancing in the now lawless streets.

Several years ago, when David Clarke was sheriff of Milwaukee County, he made a great point in a public-service ad. Citizens should plan on defending themselves against intruders, he said, because it takes time for law enforcement to respond to a 911 call.

The critical minutes before law enforcement arrives could be the difference between life and death, Clarke correctly advised. Yet the government that cannot always offer us the protection we need is the same government that wants to deny us the right to self-defense.

What's more, a person who has decided to commit an act of domestic terror will always try to find a way to commit that terrorism. If a gun isn't available, a knife or a bomb probably will be.

Blaming guns for mass violence is as goofy as blaming Trump. It avoids blaming those who carry out these atrocities.

So, how do we stop potential shooters? The latest fad, even embraced by President Trump and the NRA, which has at least dropped its formal opposition, is so-called red flag laws, or "extreme risk protection orders."

These may have some value, but such laws also have serious down sides, and states need to proceed very carefully with any such enactment of them.

Most important, red-flag laws can rob people of their due-process rights. They allow the confiscation of guns basically because those who file a petition to have a person's guns confiscated have a hunch that that person is going on a killing spree or will commit suicide.

In Colorado, the person who can turn you in as a threat to yourself or others can be anyone, living anywhere. Often, there's no testimony from mental-health experts required, or any advance warning of a coming confiscation.

In some states, police can take your firearm on reasonable suspicion, even if you haven't been arrested. Many of these confiscations take months to adjudicate, requiring legal expenses. Even if the order is overturned, is this really due process?

In Massachusetts a man died when police raided his house at 5 a.m. to take his gun. The man at first retrieved and put his gun down but became agitated about police taking it and scuffled with them. The gun went off. No one was hurt by the discharge, but police shot him dead.

So there are a lot of red flags associated with red flag laws.

The biggest is going down the slippery slope of trying to predict who is going to kill someone or commit suicide. This is a police state mentality that should not advance.

Even if future behavior could be predicted, what makes red-flag laws so egregious is that, once again, these laws really target the gun and not the person. Taking a gun away from a person on the edge is not going to necessarily or even probably prevent whatever act that person may be contemplating.

Again, they could hang or poison themselves, or blow others up.

A red flag law that targets guns based on hunches or "reasonable suspicions" isn't credible. Those suspected of planning or contemplating something horrible should be confined, and only on the testimony of expert witnesses, not on the hunch of the neighbor who hates you.

Yes, family members and certain others should speak up if there is a concern that a person is going to kill themselves or others. But every state has for a long time had a judicial process for legal proceedings to intrude upon that person's freedom, based on evidence. Red-flag laws just make the evidence optional.

Yes, we as a nation and all our communities should assess our strategies for dealing with mental health issues. Obviously, we are woefully lacking. But targeting guns for the sake of targeting guns is not productive, and it distracts from the core mission of addressing the nation's mental health challenges and needs.

We can do better, but first we must put the politics aside and get serious about saving lives. Disarming the population - through gun taxes, outright bans, or red-flag laws - won't do anything except make law-abiding citizens less safe. And they would not deter one person hell-bent on mass violence from committing that act.

We have a serious mental-health problem, and that is what must be addressed, if only the Left and others who despise the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the constitution would only listen.

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