Do red flag laws make anyone safer?
Well, that’s a discussion we can certainly have. It should be right up there with whether it actually matters one way or another when it comes to a fundamental human right as the right to keep and bear arms.
For proponents of these laws, though, it often seems like the safety argument vanishes after these laws are passed. Instead, they use a different metric to determine whether or not the law is working or not.
That process is starting in Virginia.
At least three dozen Virginia residents have been prohibited temporarily or potentially permanently from having firearms or purchasing them based on a new state law allowing authorities to convince a judge that a person would be a danger to themselves or others.
The “red flag” law creating the petition for substantial risk orders began July 1, as one of many gun-related restrictions approved this year by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
Twenty-six temporary and 10 potentially permanent orders were issued in July and August, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The numbers came from the Virginia State Police, which operates the Virginia Firearm Transaction Center. The state police is prohibited from releasing details about the orders.
Of course, it should be remembered that temporary orders are issued on what amounts to hearsay evidence by third parties presented to a judge who issues a ruling without ever having spoken with the individual in question. Further, none of the people involved in the process are mental health professionals who may actually be qualified to judge someone’s mental state.
Instead, it’s a couple of people who don’t necessarily understand psychology rendering a decision about whether another person gets to exercise a basic human right.
There’s a lot we don’t know about these 36 individuals, such as what kind of threat they supposedly presented. Further, while we don’t know for sure, we can assume that none of have carried out any kind of murder or taken their own life following the orders being issued.
For proponents, that just proves they work, but that’s not necessarily true. After all, there are tons of ways to kill yourself or someone else without ever touching a firearm. If someone was that determined, they’d do it regardless of the order.
And that’s another problem with the orders. They leave the supposedly dangerous person to roam the streets. If someone is that big of a threat, shouldn’t you use the tools already available to commit them at least temporarily? Then it won’t matter if they have access to guns, knives, or high explosives at their home. They won’t be at their homes in the first place, but somewhere they can be evaluated by people who actually know what the hell they’re talking about.
We’ll have to wait and see just how things shake out in the long term, but don’t expect to see anything else from Virginia other than raw numbers of how many orders are issued and a lot of preening from supporters of the law that claim those numbers show just how well the orders are working.
Especially if homicide and suicide rates don’t decrease.