Natelson: Rights violating ‘Red Flag’ laws may kill more than they save

Natelson: Rights violating ‘Red Flag’ laws may kill more than they save

Gun Rights

Mass shootings by mentally disturbed gunmen have encouraged the adoption of state statutes called “red flag laws.” They permit police or citizens to begin legal proceedings to confiscate firearms from people who allegedly pose a danger to themselves or others. Such laws can be useful if carefully and narrowly drafted. But some aren’t carefully nor narrowly drafted. Recently, both Colorado and New York state have adopted red flag bills that violate protections in our Bill of Rights. Poorly drafted laws may prove useless in practice —and might even increase crime. Red flag laws authorize two kinds of confiscation orders. The first removes firearms without notice from their owner for a few days or weeks, until a hearing can be held. After the hearing, the judge may grant a more permanent order, perhaps for a year. Or the judge may deny the more permanent order and vacate the temporary one. The greatest potential for abuse arises when the police or a citizen (“the petitioner”) seeks a temporary order without informing the gun owner. Guns are property, and the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution provide that people may not be deprived of property without due process of law. The Supreme Court has ruled that before the government can confiscate or infringe upon property, the owner is entitled to an opportunity to defend himself or herself. He or she is entitled to have a lawyer, cross-examine, and take advantage of other procedural benefits afforded by our Anglo-American legal tradition. […]

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