Red Flag Laws: Unfit for Your Rights

Red Flag
Laws designed for legalists to decide individuals’ mental fitness have a history of severe bias and abuse.

Recent shootings have pivoted Red Flag laws into the national conversation over gun control. Currently, there are 18 states with so-called Red Flag laws. For those of us unaware, a Red Flag law enables law enforcement and ordinary citizens to raise a ‘red flag’ over a gun owner who may be a threat to themselves or others. 2A defenders and gun rights advocates tend to be opposed to Red Flag laws, and they should be. Red Flag laws are a wolf in the sheepdog’s clothing.

Gun control is population control. Authoritarian politicians believe they should have the power to decide who deserves their rights. There are people who present a danger to society and should not have a firearm. But writing such broad legislation focused on a minuscule corner of society does more harm to the majority than it does to the fringes. Red Flag laws have been used maliciously by petty tyrants to disarm people.

The Slippery Slope of ‘Mental Fitness’ Legislation

One problem American conservatives have with the Leftist agenda is the slippery slope. It seems that we are laughed at and mocked for the slippery slope argument, then later we reach that point we had warned would arrive. When it comes to the government deciding Americans’ mental fitness to exercise their rights, we are still climbing out from the horrifying depth of that slippery slope.

In a case that should never have even been up for discussion, the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that a Rhode Island police force acted unlawfully when they seized a man’s firearms while he was in the hospital for a mental health check. During the man’s visit, police entered his home and seized his firearms without a warrant. Even the most leftist judges admitted it was a clear violation of a variety of Amendments. We wrote about that case earlier.

The spate of shootings since President Biden took office has caused politicians to demand federal Red Flag laws. During the address where Biden famously regarded no amendment in the Constitution as absolute, he also issued a directive for his Department of Justice to design model legislation for both state and federal lawmakers to enact Red Flag laws.

Red Flag laws
Red flag laws are designed for lawyers and judges to decide an individual’s mental fitness. The individual must convince the court they will not commit a future crime.

The Red Flag Law

So long as Red Flag laws are described from 30,000 feet up, they feel logical; they feel like the sort of “common sense” gun legislation that the Right Wing is once again resisting. But in reality, a Red Flag based on hearsay, presuppositions, and perceptions of intent will either be worthless or abused. What is terrifying is that the government has a long track record of abusing this very power.

In a Red Flag hearing, the government’s mission is to prove that the subject is dangerous. It becomes the suspect’s mission to prove they are not. That means the individual will take on the time and financial burden of defending their mental stability. The status of an individual’s Constitutionally protected right becomes subject to strangers’ interpretation of their mentality. An individual, not a psychologist, reports the suspect; a prosecutor decides the case against the suspect’s mental fitness, not a psychologist; a judge decides if the individual is a danger to society, not a psychologist.

Mental Fitness and Eugenics

“The object of civilization is to obtain the highest and most splendid culture of which humanity is capable. But such attainment is unthinkable if we continue to breed from the present race stock that yields us our largest amount of progeny. Some method must be devised to eliminate the degenerate and the defective; for these act constantly to impede progress and ever increasingly drag down the human race.”

Margaret Sanger, A Better Race Through Birth Control, 1923

There was another time when the US legal system gave itself the authority to suspend people’s rights. In the late 19th century and up through 2018, the American legal system evaluated the mental state of individuals and accrued the power to declare people as mentally fit or unfit. The government could then commit individuals to mental facilities or even sterilize them.

Prisoners, immigrants, minorities, and the ‘unfit’ could all be forcibly removed from the gene pool against their will. “Unfit” was the catch-all word for instances where the government wanted to sterilize people but had not yet put a thumb on why. Such reasons included epilepsy and poverty. Middle and upper-class women were denied birth control based on their elevated social status.

A “Most Splendid Culture”

In the early and mid 20th century, American social scientists designed different ways to create genetically superior populations through sterilization and selective breeding. As late as 2018, California and Tennessee judges were caught coercing and tricking female prisoners into sterilization with promises for reduced sentences.

These programs were based on social Darwinism, the concept that only the best among the population should carry forward the human race. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, created the organization to prevent poor black women from procreating. She penned an article for The Thinker titled “A Better Race Through Birth Control.” W.E.B. DuBois, an early civil rights activist, believed that poor Blacks were a blight on the progress of the Black population; he led the NAACP to host “Better Baby” competitions to encourage selective ‘breeding’ among the black population. The Carnegie Institute funded early genetics studies that formed America’s eugenics movement.

Better Baby Competition, 1946
Winners of the NAACP Better Baby Competition in Philadelphia, 1946.

So what do Red Flag laws have to with eugenics? They are cut from the same cloth: the belief that those in control can and should have the authority to suspend people’s rights. Gun control laws are always about removing guns from populations. They never address criminality, only various ways to keep firearms from the people the government thinks should be controlled. Gun control is people control. And despite the title of “progressive,” the reality is that the agenda is just a rehashing of old ideas that destroyed lives.


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