At The Washington Times: Gun confiscation is not the solution to mass shootings

Nov 30, 2022 | op-ed

There have been a lot of false claims about Red Flag laws, and this piece by Dr. John Lott in The Washington Times explaining the errors in the logic.

Gun control advocates would have us believe that confiscating people’s guns is the solution to all problems. Without so much as a hearing, Red Flag laws allow judges in many states to confiscate people’s guns due to mere suspicion of mental health.

A third party need only complain that a gun owner is a danger to himself or others. After reviewing the single, written complaint, all a judge needs is “reasonable suspicion.” No mental health care experts are involved in the evaluation process or in treating the person.

These laws that were supposed to stop the recent mass murders in Colorado Springs and Chesapeake, Virginia on respectively on November 19th and 23rd. But why design a law that only takes away a person’s guns when there are so many other ways for people to harm themselves or others?

If a person is really a danger to themselves or others, confiscating guns Isn’t much of a solution anyway. There are so many other ways for disturbed people to harm themselves or others.

It’s easy enough for people to do something crazy with a motor vehicle. Florida police narrowly averted a “mass casualty” event at a 5K Thanksgiving Day run by stopping a woman before she could drive her Range Rover Velar at 60 MPH through the crowd. Once caught, the disturbed woman “repeatedly banged her head” against the window of a police car. 

On Saturday, a car was driven into a crowd of 800 people at a Christmas Market in Congleton, England. A year ago, a man killed six and injured sixty-one by driving into a Christmas parade in Wisconsin.

The Washington Post notes that between May and June 2020, there were at least 18 deliberate vehicle attacks on people. The worst, recent vehicle attack occurred in France on July 14, 2016, when 86 were killed and 430 wounded. That attack was much more deadly than any American mass public shooting.

The recent Colorado Springs mass murderer had just last year engaged in making bomb threats. The Boston Marathon bombers even used pressure cookers to make a bomb. And if guns suddenly vanished, there would likely be more of those types of attacks.

Red Flag laws are almost exclusively used to prevent suicides. But, of course, there are many ways to commit suicide without a gun. We should prioritize mental health treatment, not weapon confiscation.

It has always been possible to take a dangerous person’s guns away. All 50 states and the federal government have involuntary commitment laws that go by various names: the Baker Act in Florida, for example, or the 5150 code in California. All these laws require an evaluation by a mental health expert, and then testimony before a judge. If the defendant can’t afford a lawyer, one is provided. Hearings can occur quickly in urgent cases, but a person’s right to due process is respected.

Judges have a much broader array of options than just taking away a person’s guns. A person may agree to voluntary psychiatric treatment, with a follow-up court hearing to evaluate progress.  the individual may also be given home detention or involuntarily committed in a mental health care facility.

Democrats and gun control activists point out that Red Flag laws enjoy at least 2-to-1 support in surveys. But the polling doesn’t really accurately gauge Americans’ views because the surveys don’t accurately describe the laws. They may, for instance, ask people if they support laws that “allow guns to be temporarily confiscated by a judge from people considered by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.”

The Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), which I head, hired McLaughlin & Associates to conduct a survey in July of 1,000 general election voters. The survey began by asking people whether they supported red flag Laws. It then informed respondents that there are no hearings before an individual’s guns are taken away, and that there are no mental health care experts involved in the process. After being told these two facts, what had been two-to-one support for Red Flag laws turned to opposition by a 47%-to-29% margin.

Worse, there is evidence that Red Flag laws increase suicides because depressed individuals may not talk to others about their depression for fear that even a well-meaning person might file a complaint, and they won’t have a chance to explain their circumstances to a judge.

Gun control advocates have done a disservice to people undergoing mental health crises. By making everything about guns, they have taken the focus off of treatment. People in distress don’t deserve to be treated like potential mass shooters. 

John R. Lott, Jr., “Gun confiscation is not the solution to mass shootings,” The Washington Times, November 30, 2022.

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