We have witnessed the horrific tragedy of multiple deaths in mass shootings carried out in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, recently. This senseless killing is nothing short of heart-rending and unconscionable.
In just a short time, the picture that has emerged of the killers only amplifies this as they appear devoid of conscience and bereft of morals, totally heartless and without compassion. Our hearts go out to the victims families and our thoughts and prayers are for God to comfort them and grant them grace and strength in their sorrow.
Barely could prayers get out before calls for stripping away Americans’ rights and liberties went out. These calls are for not only inappropriate government action that damages the rights of law-abiding citizens but also very likely ineffective as well.
The action called for, red flag gun laws or gun violence restraining order laws, would allow families and household members, as well as law enforcement officers, to petition a court to remove a person’s access to guns if he or she poses an imminent danger to self or others. And this law would give the court the authority to do it.
On the surface this sounds like a good idea. But ideas must be examined to determine as best we can their consequences. Bad law comes out of emotion-driven, knee-jerk reactions to bad circumstances.
We should note that this would not be for a crime someone has committed but rather for a crime or suicide someone might commit. In our American system of criminal law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A red flag law would presume a person guilty until proven innocent. I don’t believe anyone wants to go down that road. The idea that a person could lose their constitutional rights without being convicted of a crime or an impartial trial rendering a decision is really a dangerous one.
There is much potential for abuse by family members who would maliciously or mistakenly petition the court for someone’s Second Amendment rights to be revoked. Judges, rightly concerned about violence in society involving guns, could easily be led to violate an innocent person’s Second Amendment rights. Under this law, people can lose the constitutional right to armed self-defense if a judge thinks they probably pose a “significant danger” to themselves or others.
In addition, under red flag laws, the person could lose his constitutional due process rights, such as a right to have a hearing, the right to face his accuser, the right to the assistance of an attorney, and the right to unreasonable searches and seizures.
Now perhaps a red flag law could be written in a way that would maintain protection for a person’s constitutional rights but so far I haven’t seen one. Certainly it would be something I would be willing to examine.
That said, Iowa already has in place “red-flag-similar” laws to protect the public that provide a constitutionally valid path to revoking a person’s firearm rights. A person’s firearm rights can be revoked if they have been convicted of a felony, if they have been convicted of domestic violence, if they are the subject of a protective order, or if a court has declared them mentally incompetent.
Iowa law also has provision for handling threats where a person poses a significant danger to himself or to others. These threats can be reported to law enforcement and are handled on a case by case basis. If there is probable cause (enough evidence presented), the person who is a threat can be arrested, can be put under a protection order or restraining order or they can be involuntarily committed. Under involuntary commitment they can be held for 48 or 72 hours while a psychiatric evaluation is conducted.
Another important fact to consider is that someone with a violent mindset who is willing to carry out plans to kill people is lawless enough that they are not going to be deterred from committing a massacre by any law that takes their guns away. They will beg, borrow or steal one or use any other means such as a baseball bat, a knife, an ax, a bomb, or even a truck to accomplish their goal, as has been done in the past.
None of the gun control measures either in place or proposed would have prevented the 2 recent shootings or any of the others that have occurred. That’s because it’s not the gun that commits violence, it’s the person that does.
It is obvious that these killers have serious mental health issues among other things. Until these issues are addressed our society will continue to be plagued with these tragedies. Much legislation has been enacted here in Iowa and literally millions of taxpayer dollars are already being spent on addressing mental health issues, especially in the last several years. And I’m sure that more will come in the future as government works to find solutions as best as it can without trampling on our constitutional rights.
One way to help stem the violence we see perpetrated in society that I don’t hear much talk about is for our courts to stop allowing realistic movies and video games that depict killing and violence to be protected under the 1st Amendment. Court rulings on legislation intended prevent public exposure to these dangerous stimuli have seriously damaged our people, especially the young, for decades. We don’t think about this because we have become desensitized to the violence to which we are exposed.
We have already found that viewing these awful films and participation in these gruesome games are often found to be in a killer’s background. People tend to act out what they see. Universal Pictures just dropped plans to release the movie, “The Hunt”, which depicts human beings hunting down other human beings to kill them for sport. I’m glad Universal canceled that, but it’s too little. There is way more that should not be allowed. Hollywood has demonstrated its total lack of ability to police itself and families and young people have suffered for it.
Even though government has a role in this, we need to realize that government can never solve all of these issues. It has never done so and it will never do so. To expect the government to do so is totally unrealistic.
The problems are much deeper than what we have discussed. I’d like to mention a couple areas that I believe are root causes of these problems we face in our society.
Even though this truth is often stated, it should be repeated because it still has bearing on what we are discussing here: We have thrown God out of our schools, out of the marketplace, out of the public arena, out of politics, out of government, out of law, out of health care, out of the marriage and family, out of morality, out of sexuality, etc. And we have suffered for it. We need a law outside ourselves to follow. We have done a poor job when we go off and make up our own. He created us and He ought to know how we best “work”. Related to this is the failure to respect human life that has been created in His image, not made from some random evolutionary process. This view leads to a loss of purpose, meaning, and hope. And that is at the root of the mental issues and violence we see in these shooters.
Second, the breakdown of the traditional family structure (man and woman marriage with children natural or adopted), which has been shown by studies to be the best for instilling security, moral values, strong character, and high levels of education in children, has been severe. The family is the basic building block of society. How can a society be healthy when the family is not healthy? Related to this is the lack of fathers and their love and input into the lives of their children. Studies show almost all of the mass shooters in the U.S. grew up without fathers. The constant bombardment of unhealthy messages about life, success, sex, money, and power from the media, including social media, indoctrinate our children away from the values taught by their parents. Too much time spent on screens by both parents and children cuts off valuable interaction and the building of relationships that is needed to provide nurturing and security and prevent feelings of loneliness and abandonment. All of this contributes to the mental instability, insecurity, confusion, depression, anxiety, and abuse of all kinds, and violence we see in our society.
In short, gun control can never replace God-control, self-control, and family-control.