On Tuesday, two Anne Arundel County deputies acting on a “Red Flag” protective order shot and killed Gary J. Willis, 61, in his Linwood Avenue home. The controversial legislation, now adopted by eleven states, allows law enforcement to confiscate legally owned firearms from law-abiding citizens based on flimsy evidence or spurious allegations.
According to Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare, the deputies, whose body cams were conveniently switched off, fired twice after Mr. Willis brandished a handgun that accidentally discharged when the officers tried to wrestle it from his hands. The official story must be questioned, as the officers initially gave conflicting reports. The only other witness, Mr. Willis, is dead. Family members described him as loud and opinionated, but harmless. He had no criminal history, and surfaced on police radar only because a nosy neighbor, who had been peeking through a window, saw him cleaning a pistol. That neighbor freaked out and notified authorities that a “loud and angry man in the neighborhood” possessed dangerous firearms. Mr. Willis was the first known causality of Red Flag laws, but he is not the only victim.
The dubious Red Flag edict gained legislative popularity in the aftermath of the Parkland High School mass shooting; ever since, anti-gun lobbyists and the liberal left have pressured lawmakers in every state to craft increasingly expansive versions of the law. In Maryland and California, for example, LEOs can enter homes based on whimsical tips and need court orders only if persons refuse to voluntarily surrender household firearms; a blatant violation of the 2nd and 4th Amendments.
Last July, police in Redding, CA raided the home of John Pascalino, 36, after a jilted ex-girlfriend fabricated a story, telling LEOs that her mentally unstable ex-boyfriend was hiding a cache of weapons for future criminal activity. A day later, they broke down his door, beat him silly, and confiscated the only weapon in the house—an old lever-action 30-30. Police said they were operating under powers granted by Red Flag laws. Pacalino had no criminal record and no history of mental impairment.
Per Wikipedia, A Red Flag law is a gun violence prevention law that permits police, family members, or a medical expert to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. Accusers are seldom vetted for accuracy, meaning any person holding a grudge on another can essentially ruin lives by merely suggesting an individual is a danger to society.
A spokesperson for the activist group Citizens Against Government Oppression (CAGO) said the following: “The cops and the courts are all too eager to act without evidence. Their philosophy is to act first, seize weapons first, and then ask questions later. Red Flag Laws violate constitutional rights and are being against many innocent people. Make no mistake, this is a prelude to national disarmament of the American people. Seizures are supposed to be temporary, but in no case I investigated has a single person had their weapons returned.”
His statement has merit. In Anne Arundel County, Chief Altomare said his department leased a 15,000 square-foot warehouse “to store all the guns we intend to confiscate.” Maryland has seized weapons under Red Flag Laws 152 times this year. California is a close second, with 136 instances, followed by Florida’s ninety-seven.
Unfortunately, many ignorant people support Red Flag Laws; a March 2018 survey found that 85% of registered voters support laws that would “allow the police or FEMA to take guns away from people.” Sadly, even the NRA has waffled on its position. Although it tried to defeat Red Flag legislation in Utah and Maryland, in March 2018 it softened its position, with a spokesperson saying, “We might support such laws, conditionally.”
In closing, I hope the NRA hardens its stance. Not everyone should be armed. Violent offenders and people with a proven mental handicap should not have weapons. But Red Flag Laws are targeting innocent, rational people, not the criminally insane. Our Founding Fathers penned the 2nd Amendment for a specific reason: they realized that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and provided a way by which we—the American people—could stop a tyrannical government from rising against us.