We were promised that “red flag” firearm laws were the answer to mass shootings.
Back in 2016, votes in Washington State approved a “red flag” firearms seizure law, also called an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Five years later, there’s no evidence that the law has had any beneficial effect on violent crime or suicides, but that’s not stopping local media outlets from doing their best to spin the law as a valuable tool for law enforcement. Despite this, we see a push for a national Red Flag law.
The linked article gives a view of some of the underlying issues.
Guns are at the very center of America’s deep cultural and political divides. President Biden is already facing pushback from critics and gun-rights activists who argue the “Red Flag” laws can be used to strip someone of their gun rights based on unproven allegations. There are questions over how effective the policies are. “One thing for sure is that it did not lower the homicide rate as promised and sold to the public,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, wrote in an email. Most people who die from a gun do so by completing suicide. In 2017, for example, 75% of Washington’s gun deaths were attributed to suicide, according to a report from Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. The national figure that year was 60%. One would think that the “Red Flag” laws would be an excellent tool to reduce these deaths. But all too often, the system reacts too late. We just don’t want to face the fact that mental issues affect all of us. Here’s the basic problem with the assertion that red flag laws prevent suicide. The laws don’t actually do anything to provide mental health resources for individuals deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves. The red flag law allows guns to be seized, but leaves the troubled individual with easy access to knives, pills, ropes, belts, or anything else that they could use to take their own life. Recently my brother and several close friends passed away. I sunk into a dark depression and was questioning whether there was a reason to keep going on. I was pulled through this by support from my wife and kids; not some “do-gooder” swooping in and taking my firearms. If someone wants to take their life, there is always a way.
If we are going to address firearm violence, we have to stop looking for a quick fix.
Red Flag laws, extended background checks, assault weapons bans, and ghost gun bans are all emotionally driven quick fixes. None of these address the root issue with mental health and criminal violence.