California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana, and Connecticut have what are known as “Red Flag Laws” or Extreme Risk Protection Orders. Similar laws are being considered in several other states as well. The idea behind them is to take guns away from people who are exhibiting behavior dangerous to themselves or others. Texas also has a similar part of their law that states a person with mental illness cannot possess a gun.
What if they are not “diagnosed” or adjudicated as mentally ill? What if it’s just a short period of time for someone going through a stressful situation that is not mental illness? Is that a true “threat assessment” of the danger?
KOMO reported that Seattle police used the law for the first time on Thursday when they took a handgun away from a man in the downtown area. They had received several calls about the man’s “escalating behavior.”
According to KOMO,
“Police said officers also seized a shotgun from the man in a different incident.
Because of his continued contacts with police, the Crisis Response Squad filed an Extreme Risk Protection Order, which required the man to give up all of his firearms.
The man reportedly failed to turn the firearms over or appear for court, so police then arrested him at his apartment Thursday.”
In the case of “Red Flag Laws,” relatives of a person can report their behavior to a judge and obtain an Extreme Risk Protection Order that is then enforced by police and requires confiscation of all the subject’s guns. In this case, the Seattle Police had a “Crisis Response Squad” that also was able to obtain an ERPO.
The flaws in an ERPO
Some people believe that such laws could have prevented the Florida massacre on Valentine’s Day. Maybe. But laws such as these have a couple of flaws that should not be overlooked – one of them is a lack of due process. The other is mental illness not being treated properly. Judges and police are not mental health professionals.
By due process we mean that the respondent on these orders doesn’t get to present their side of the story until AFTER the guns are confiscated. They are guilty until proven innocent. Laws such as these may be what the President was referring to when he made the statement that he wanted to take guns first and have due process later. We previously reported that statement.
The person behind the gun
But let’s think about Nikolas Cruz for a minute. We know that over a period of TEN years, police encountered him in episodes of obvious mental aberrations and failed to effectively intervene.
NPR reported one of the 911 calls about Cruz:
“Caller advised subject Nikolas Cruz is collecting guns and knives. Cruz wants to join the Army. Concerned he will kill himself one day and believes he could be a school shooter in the making. Caller advised Cruz was no longer living at the listed parkland address and is now living Lake Worth, FL. Believes the weapons are kept at a friend’s house at an unknown location.”
No report was generated on that 911 call. The caller was referred to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department.
Cruz wasn’t just “collecting” guns, he was also stockpiling knives. He reportedly also was killing animals and abusing women. He had a violent temper and was often depressed. Mass killers don’t just “snap.” A mass murderer doesn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to go murder 17 people.” They fantasize about it, plan it, work on it. Cruz did the same. He had been talking about it for years.
While he was yet a juvenile, he was a potential problem and needed specialized mental health care and proper threat assessment. If his guns had been confiscated, he would likely have gone on a stabbing spree…unless something was done about HIM personally. Mental Health laws in this country are sadly inadequate. Taking their guns may postpone the danger, but does not prevent disaster.
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