Like clockwork, Republicans are ready for gun control.
Every time an evil psychopath with a hatred for his fellow man and a death wish opens fire on a bar, store, or stadium the calls for gun control are quick to follow. Democrat partisans are first to insist something must be done, typically in the most grotesque and over the top manner possible, like tweeting the hashtag #MassacreMoscowMitch while going to the Senate Majority Leader’s house to say they wish he’d break his neck.
The next stage is the media offering free airtime for left-wing partisans and combative interviews with Republicans and gun-rights supporters. Typically, editorial boards will join in, and after every major new incident at least one hitherto silent media organization will join the chorus, this time it was the New York Post.
And finally, the Republican Party, cowed by a media that hates them and the amplified chorus for “something to be done” will give an inch, or three. This time it’s so-called red flag laws, let’s see what exactly the GOP has decided to cave on this time. (RELATED: Twitter Locked McConnell Campaign’s Account For Posting Video Of Protesters Outside Senator’s Home)
Red-flag laws, also called Emergency Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) are fairly simple. The idea is that friends, family, neighbors and other people should be able to go to the police, accuse you of being a risk to the community, and have your firearms seized, without being found guilty of any crime.
The impetus for this is the frequently concerning behavior exhibited by mass shooters before they go on to commit their heinous acts of terrorism. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, estimates that about half of all mass shooters exhibited some warning signs before their crimes.
While these laws take many forms, they all essentially do the same thing. They reduce the severity of the behavior required to have someone’s Second Amendment rights infringed, and reduce the amount of due process someone gets before that infringement.
Some states that have implemented ERPOs have even made it so the accused gun-owner does not even have to appear in court for a judge to issue the seizure warrant, something that has led to more violence in some cases.
Last November a Maryland man was fatally shot by police when he was surprised by a 5:17am house call by police who had been ordered to serve him a seizure order that was instigated by a sister of his. He answered the early-morning call while carrying his firearm and though he set it down after seeing the knockers were the police, he picked it back up at one point, resulting in the police shooting him.
Even when ERPOs don’t result in violence, they can be a financially ruinous for the accused. Making an effective case for one’s constitutional rights in an inherently subjective hearing for having rights restored requires good legal representation, something that can cost thousands of dollars. In some states the ERPO legislation that has been filed includes provisions for the restoration of attorney’s fees in some cases, but those dollars still come from taxpayers, not out of thin air.
You don’t even have to own a gun to fall afoul of ERPO’s, as one Florida teen learned the hard way. Chris Velazquez was served with an order preventing him from purchasing firearms when someone reported him for trolling on reddit about the Parkland shooting. He had never owned a firearm, and was forced to retain an attorney to defend himself. Judges have every incentive to accept ERPO requests when they get them, because the alternative is to risk being responsible for not stopping a mass shooting.
The atmosphere in America is a tinderbox ready to light, and in the days following the El Paso and Dayton shootings there have been several accidental panics caused by people believing a shooting is occurring. Imagine the wave of ERPO reports that would follow every mass shooting, as a tense and fearful nation examines every single acquaintance and family member with questionable Facebook posts or an anger issue and determines reporting them is necessary.
Rachel Malone, the Texas Director of Gun Owners of America, told the Daily Caller in an exclusive interview that the core problem with ERPOs is that they allow for constitutional rights to be infringed without the committing of a crime, and no tinkering around the edges can change that.
Which brings us to the Republican elected officials that have traditionally pushed these laws. Whereas left-wing activists tend to focus on much more sweeping legislation like universal background checks, gun confiscations, and semi-automatic weapon bans, Republican elected officials lean on ERPO laws as their primary totem of technocratic earnestness. (RELATED: Dayton Shooter’s Now-Suspended Twitter Appears To Have Had Pro-Antifa, Pro-Gun Control Comments)
It sometimes backfires spectacularly, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott learned last year when he attempted to push a red-flag law after the Santa Fe mass shooting last May. Conservative legislators immediately came out in opposition to his proposal, the state GOP convention a few months later wrote opposition to red-flag laws into the Republican Party Platform, and he quietly nixed his proposal soon after.
Now there are renewed calls for a federal ERPO solution, which would consist of federal dollars for states to implement their own ERPO laws. Trump-era fan-favorites Lindsey Graham and Dan Crenshaw, both Republicans, have been among those expressing support for the policy.
The solutions aren’t obvious, even if we pretend they are. But we must try. Let’s start with the TAPS Act. Maybe also implement state “red flag” laws, or gun violence restraining orders. Stop them before they can hurt someone.https://t.co/2G2pZSWaF1
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) August 4, 2019
Other elected officials like Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and South Dakota Senator John Thune have also gotten behind the legislation. What’s more unusual has been the move among Trump’s most ardent, erstwhile conservative, supporters like Bill Mitchell’s enthusiasm for the legislation.
I’m right because I’m right, not because you agree with me. For every far right NO GUN CONTROLS extremist Trump lost, he gained 3 reasonable moderates who don’t want crazy people shooting their kids at Walmart.
THIS is how you win elections.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) August 8, 2019
This sort of policy would likely fund the gun control of liberal states while activists in Republican states would make opposition to the policy a litmus test for their conservative elected officials, much like Medicare block grant expansions that many Governors have still refused to accept almost a decade after Obamacare’s passage.
ERPO’s are, like bump stocks, one of the few issues that divide even the gun rights lobby. Whereas the NRA has backed the kind of theoretical ERPO proposal that perfectly protects the relevant constitutional rights, Gun Owners of America has been much more strident in their opposition.
When asked about Republican elected officials, including Trump’s, renewed calls for federal action on gun control, Malone said GOA “doesn’t trust the President to support gun rights,” citing his comments on the issue after the Parkland shooting, the administration’s ban of bump stocks, their warming to action against suppressors, and these new calls for ERPO legislation. (RELATED: Graham Announces Gun Confiscation ‘Red Flag’ Legislation Backed By Trump)
This cycle isn’t going to stop. Every time a mass shooting happens the democratic media machine will agitate for action from Republican legislators and President Trump’s reflexive comfort for gun control will rear its head again. What isn’t clear is if anything will come from it.