Someone is pounding on your door.
It’s dark and you glance at your clock as you are startled awake. It’s 5 am. No one whom you want to see knocks on your door at 5 am, so you pull your gun from the nightstand drawer before going to the door. You look outside and see police officers standing there. With no idea why they’re knocking on your door at 5 am, you lay your gun aside and open the door. They tell you they have an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) against you and are there to take your guns away, guns which you own legally.
This exact exact scenario played out recently in Glen Burnie, Maryland, when Anne Arundel County police officers attempted to serve an ERPO against 61 year-old Gary J. Willis. It appears Mr. Willis was placed in this position by a family member following a disagreement, although no details were available. He answered his door at 5:17 am to find two officers there to confiscate his firearms. Although he initially put his gun down, he picked it up again as he became irate at the officers and was killed during a struggle for the gun. He made a tragic, emotional decision and it cost him his life.
Mr. Willis should have never been in this position. Neither should have the LEOs. Mr. Willis is a victim of a new gun control tactic being put in place across the nation. So called “red flag laws” are now in place in 13 states, including the usual places where the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply and crime rates are highest. While they vary somewhat in their mechanics, they follow a general model. A concerned family member or law enforcement officer can request a court order, an ERPO in the case of Maryland, which allows for the temporary removal of firearms from the subject of the order. Supposedly, these laws are intended to prevent a person who has exhibited behavior or made statements indicating they are a threat to themselves or others. The subject of the order can petition the court to have their firearms returned to them after the fact.
What is the biggest problem with red flag laws? There is no due process for the subject of the order until after the order has been executed. In other words, the subject has no recourse until after the police have entered his home and confiscated his property. This idea should send a chill down every American’s spine. Imagine if you have an argument with a family member. Whether you make any sort of threat or not, or behave in a violent manner or not, said family member could approach the court and have your property confiscated. How long will it be before any “concerned citizen” can have an ERPO issued? How long will it be, then, before your neighbor who hates guns/gun owners sees you loading a rifle case in your vehicle and has an ERPO issued? If you don’t think that’s possible, you’re fooling yourself.
No one wants people who are truly unstable or pose a danger to themselves and others to armed. But red flag laws are not the answer. The word of one person against another should not be sufficient to allow the state to so clearly violate the constitutional rights of a citizen. This lack of due process is simply not acceptable. Red flag laws put citizens and LEOs in danger as we have just seen in Maryland. I don’t blame the officers in Mr. Willis’s death. As I said, he made a bad decision and the officers apparently responded appropriately. But it was all unnecessary. The police never should have been there in the first place, at least not with the intent of taking his property. Once again, leftist laws touted as protecting us from “gun violence” (as apposed to any other sort of violence) do nothing but violate our rights and in fact, make us less safe.