Pro-gun activists are launching a nationwide pressure campaign to stop a proposed “red flag” bill announced in the U.S. Congress by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump has called for a condemnation of white supremacism, stronger background checks, and reform of mental health laws, among other measures. Washington lawmakers are looking to harness the national outrage over the shootings to pass a federal red flag bill.
The activists hope that Trump will eventually reject such a bill, which would likely create financial incentives from the federal government for states to install broadly written programs for gun confiscation. This kind of program, which is already active in 17 states and Washington, allows gun owners’ relatives, police, and possibly members of the community to petition to remove firearms from gun owners who are perceived to be an imminent threat to themselves or others.
“People need to be able to defend themselves,” said former South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright as a grassroots movement develops in the state to block Graham and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) from passing the bill.
“I wish they were leading in the direction of liberty, and not infringing on the Second Amendment. Anytime something like this happens, the Left uses this as an opportunity to take away people’s rights. I wish my senators would lead in the right direction. I always considered Tim Scott a friend, but we have to respectfully disagree on this issue.”
Former Maine state Sen. Eric Brakey told The Epoch Times: “You wouldn’t even know you were being targeted until government agents were knocking on your door.
“Earlier this year, Maine people by the thousands told our state politicians to reject red flag gun confiscation. Senator [Susan] Collins and Senator King should think twice about supporting this unconstitutional gun control proposal against the Maine people,” said Brakey, who ran against U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in 2018.
In Mississippi, state Rep. Dana Criswell is urging his state’s U.S. senators to influence party leadership on the issue.
“If they were standing in front of me right now, I would say please you’ve got to stand against the red flag laws,” Criswell told The Epoch Times, referring to Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).
“They are undermining our Constitution. When someone can report you at random and the police show up and want to confiscate your guns—even if they say it’s just temporary—that is a dangerous scary precedent. I beg them to fight against it. I hope that they will see the error in this and appeal to the president and say, ‘We’ve got to find another way.'”
“I would beg them to stop this now, by speaking out vocally against it. Speak out very loudly against this. The people of Mississippi do not want this,” Criswell said.
Thune a Target
“Every single red flag gun confiscation law passed at the state level is a rights-shredding, due process-violating abomination,” Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, told The Epoch Times, predicting a massive activist campaign to stop the red flag effort by focusing primarily on South Dakota’s Sen. John Thune and other Republicans.
“The fact that Sen. Thune wants the federal government to dole out millions of dollars to state coffers in order to bribe them into passing gun confiscation won’t sit well with his constituents in South Dakota,” Brown said. “Thune is finally showing his true colors. He’ll give up your gun rights to appease the D.C. Swamp and left-wing media.”
In South Dakota, activist Shad Olson, state Sen. Stace Nelson, Bennett County commissioner Judd Schomp, and Oglala Sioux Tribe official Bruce Whalen are pressing Thune to urge him to reject the red flag program. More South Dakota lawmakers were expected to join the effort.
“It is with great disappointment and even greater sense of urgency that the undersigned legislative and civic leaders from your home state of South Dakota stringently urge you to reconsider your vocalized support for Red Flag Gun Confiscation laws, in any form, and reconsider your stated intention of pushing such legislation in the United States Senate,” according to a letter, obtained by The Epoch Times, to Thune from the South Dakotans.
“Red Flag Gun Laws are a violation of due process under Constitutional jurisprudence and a clear infringement on the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms of all law abiding American citizens who are now being targeted by political opportunism and the most tyrannical threat to gun rights thus far seen in America’s embattled struggle to preserve our Bill of Rights,” the letter states.
“Beyond these blatantly catastrophic connotations, unintended consequences of such an abandonment of Constitutional liberty include disproportionate impacts on our brave combat veterans who will be deprived of defending themselves after defending our nation courageously and at great cost, as well as potential avenues of personal and vindictive retaliation against law enforcement officers and first responders via reports made by the very violent criminals they protect our communities against,” the letter states.
“We urge you, Senator Thune, and the rest of your U.S. Senate colleagues, in the most serious possible language, to abandon what would be a disastrous course of manipulated destruction of the 2nd Amendment and erasure of due process and the crucial American assumption of innocence until proven guilty,” the letter states.
Alaska and Alabama
Conservatives elsewhere in the country are activating.
“Alaskans won’t tolerate having either of their senators vote for any Constitution-destroying red flag legislation,” former Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, a Republican, told The Epoch Times.
“With one of the highest levels of gun ownership in the United States, and the highest percentage of veterans, Alaskans understand that their rights are on the line. They will not submit to any irrational, knee-jerk gun control efforts that undercut their Second Amendment rights,” Miller said.
In Alabama, conservative U.S. Senate candidate and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is fighting the federal bill.
“Liberals never let a crisis go to waste. Red Flag bills allowing weapons to be seized merely upon the complaint of another without due process of law are unconstitutional under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. What’s next after Red Flag bills? Your car or perhaps the person itself? Red Flag bills should receive a red flag,” Moore said in a statement.
Like ‘Minority Report’
Gun expert John Lott told The Epoch Times that the red flag federal proposal is a dangerous mistake for Republicans.
“Everyone wants to stop mass shooting, but let’s do something that’ll work. Red flag laws will cause more problems than they’ll solve,” Lott said. “I know a woman whose husband was murdered in front of her. She was being stalked, and her husband was killed by her stalker. She was depressed. If she knew that speaking to relatives could result in informing on her, she wouldn’t speak to anyone.”
“Police officers are frequently depressed because of horrors they see on the job. Do we really want to be in a position that LEOs [law enforcement officers] don’t want to talk about what they see on the job because they can lose their jobs and their guns as a result? This is like ‘Minority Report’ without the psychics,” Lott said, referring to the Hollywood movie about a system in which the government enforces “pre-crime.”
“The president focuses on mental illness, but ERPOs [Extreme Risk Protection Orders] don’t focus on mental illness,” Lott said. “The big thing here is to predict who’s going to commit crime. Criminal history. Male. Age,” Lott said. “In the past, you’ve had to have a criminal record for courts to remove your gun rights. Red flag laws stop rights with merely a complaint.”
Kris Kobach, a Kansas U.S. Senate candidate and close informal adviser to Trump, told The Epoch Times that “red flag laws that have been passed at the state level deny due process in multiple ways to the targets of individual gun confiscation complaints.”
Kobach said that under many existing red flag state laws, any person who has lived in a target’s house—including ex-girlfriends or boyfriends—can be considered a family member for purposes of lodging gun confiscation complaints.
“The standard of proof is very low. They have a hearing where they seize the person’s guns right away without even being told,” Kobach said. “The standard for disarming the individual is very low, it’s not a beyond reasonable doubt standard.”
Kobach said that “reckless storage of a firearm” could be used to disarm people who sleep with their guns near their beds. He noted that while it’s not impossible for Congress to pass a red flag bill that avoids due process concerns, the state laws on the books “are not good.”
Kobach said he hasn’t yet spoken to Trump on this issue, but if given the opportunity, would advise the president on the potential danger of a federal red flag bill.